Rape recounted in case hinged on DNA

Raymond Contreras

Raymond Contreras

LAWRENCEVILLE -- The teen told her mother she was working late at Papa John's Pizza on Aug. 15, 1999, when in truth she was carousing with friends at an all-ages pool hall. Around midnight, walking home near Jimmy Carter Boulevard, a green truck slowed down, its headlights staring.

"I started running because I just felt like something was going to happen," the alleged rape victim, now a 27-year-old Californian and mother of two, testified Wednesday.

Microscopic evidence shelved for nearly a decade had brought the Gwinnett native across the country for opening statements in the trial of her accused attacker, with whom she avoided eye contact.

Male DNA collected during an examination that night pointed blame at defendant Raymond Contreras, 44, but not until 2008, long after the teen's ripped underwear and tainted clothing had been destroyed by police to clear room for other evidence, said Assistant District Attorney Teresa Klein.

With no leads, the case had been closed.

"A year went by, then another, then another ..." Klein said.

During a prison stint for burglary in 2006, Contreras submitted DNA to nationwide database funded by the FBI. A sample taken from the alleged victim matched his profile during a random check in 2008, and the case was reopened nine years later, Klein told jurors.

Statewide, more than 1,700 cases have been solved when the FBI program linked suspects to evidence left at other crime scenes, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation director told the Daily Post earlier this year.

But Contreras' arrest hardly consoled the alleged victim.

Her testimony Wednesday painted a nightmarish scenario. She said a man jumped out of the truck on Oakwood Circle and forced her inside, where a blanket waited in the truck's cabin. She was driven to a closed business park on McDonough Drive and forced into submission as both men took turns raping her.

She testified that her attempts to smash the truck's windows, punch her attackers or even honk the horn were futile.

"I was trying to scream but nothing would come out of my mouth," she testified, dabbing tears. "I was just so terrified."

The men allegedly tossed the victim from the truck at a closed gas station, then sped away. She immediately ran home and told her mother, who called police.

The diminutive Contreras donned a yellow tie and black suit Wednesday, his long hair slicked back. He most recently lived in East Point but had resided in Duluth, records show.

Defense attorney Theresa Hood argued the sex was consensual, after Contreras and the alleged victim had met at the pool hall that night. A lack of bruises and cuts on the teen's arms, legs and neck support that theory, Hood told jurors.

Klein said the sex examination showed injuries indicative of rape.

In a cross-examination, Hood prodded inconsistencies in what the alleged victim had told detectives regarding her whereabouts that night. The attorney also highlighted her troubled home life and academic shortcomings in Georgia.

The alleged victim admitted to dropping out of high school, but couldn't recall if it was prior to the attacks or not. These days, she's studying criminal justice at a California technical college with hopes of becoming a victim advocate, she testified.

Contreras, the alleged driver, faces a life sentence on counts of rape and kidnapping with bodily injury. Testimony is expected to continue today.

Gwinnett police spokesman Officer Brian Kelly said records indicate the second attacker has not been identified. The Daily Post does not identify alleged victims in sexual assault cases.