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Suspect identified in home invasion, rape

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett police have pinpointed a suspect in a brutal home invasion last year in which a Norcross woman was repeatedly raped in front of her husband and family.

Problem is, the suspect's already been deported.

Police believe Isreal Santiago Hernandez, 38, was part of a three-man crew who burst into a trailer off Buford Highway on Oct. 22, 2007, and forcibly sodomized a Hispanic woman in front of her family, who were bound and held at gunpoint.

The 40-year-old victim lived in the modest home, tucked in the Norcross Village Mobile Home Park, with her husband and three teenage boys. The robbers made off with jewelry and cash, according to an arrest warrant issued for Hernandez this week.

Investigators lifted DNA evidence at the scene, which took months to process, and later compared it against a national databank known as CODIS - the Combined DNA Index System. The DNA matched Hernandez, who'd been imprisoned in South Carolina on drug trafficking charges after his alleged crimes in Gwinnett.

But investigators were discouraged to find Hernandez had already been released to immigration officials and deported to Mexico, said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli.

"That doesn't stop us from putting out a warrant," Schiralli said. "In case he does come back in the county."

Police have leads on the other two suspects but have not secured additional warrants. Hernandez is also wanted for an unrelated rape that occurred in Gwinnett a few weeks prior to the trailer park invasion, said Gwinnett police Detective Brad Everson.

All signs indicate the crimes were random acts perpetrated against a family the gunmen did not know, Everson said. The family has since relocated but remains in Gwinnett, he said.

Everson said his gut tells him Hernandez won't stay in Mexico for long, if he's still there now.

"My instincts tell me he isn't (outside the United States)," he said. "The money isn't down there - it's up here."

Hernandez is described as 5 feet 5 inches tall, 160 pounds with brown eyes and black hair.

The other suspects, also Hispanic, were last seen traveling in an extended-cab, white Silverado pick-up truck with chrome tubing beneath.