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Trial set in rape case reopened by DNA evidence

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The trial has been set for a violent rape case from 2003 that went cold and was re-opened in 2015 after a DNA match.

Ramon Moreno was 41 years old when he allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year-old, who was found curled up on the ground in front of a convenience store, according to a Lovington Police Department report. Moreno was reportedly aided by one or more people during the assault.

Moreno, now 56, wasn’t charged for criminal sexual penetration until 2015, 13 years after he allegedly committed the crime.

Detectives interviewed Moreno in 2003 when the rape occurred, but never took samples of his DNA.

Moreno was arrested on an unrelated felony charge in 2015 and was required to submit a DNA sample. The sample triggered a match with DNA from the victim’s underwear collected during a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) test in 2003 when the rape occured. The DNA was stored in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) after the test.

“All of those DNA swabs were put into CODIS and were there for 13 years,” Lovington Police Detective David Miranda said. “The system stores that forever.”

Miranda got notice of the match between the stored DNA from the SANE test and Moreno’s DNA sample in August 2015, according to a criminal complaint.

The statute of limitations (the time limit) for prosecuting a criminal sexual penetration charge doesn’t begin until a DNA match is obtained, Miranda said.

Moreno will appear before District Judge Michael Stone for a pre-trial conference set for Nov. 26 at the Lea County Courthouse. Stone will also hear Moreno’s jury trial set for Dec. 18. Miranda will testify as a witness at Moreno’s trial.

“I’d like to see the victim receive justice,” Miranda said.

The victim said he abandoned his home, left his job and didn’t return to Loving-ton for four years after the assault. He slid into alcohol and substance abuse and had trouble holding down a job years later, according to police reports.

When interviewed in 2015, the victim said he still felt shame and guilt.

“It destroyed my life, my marriage — they took my dignity,” the victim said.

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