KING CITY — A Monterey County jury has convicted Leonardo Ramirez Jr., a resident of King City, for violently raping a 10-year-old girl during a 2018 residential burglary after his identity was discovered from DNA found in a discarded Covid mask last year.
Ramirez, 28, was found guilty of the crime on March 30. According to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, the jury also found that he personally inflicted bodily harm on the child and used a dangerous weapon.
On Feb. 3, 2018, the victim, who was 10 years old at the time, woke up to a man in her bedroom wearing a mask over his face, gloves and a dark hoody and holding what looked like a black handgun.
“When she tried to scream for help, he covered her mouth and nose and told her to shut up as he pointed the gun at her head,” the DA’s Office said in a news release. “She was scared for her life and complied.”
For more than two years, detectives from the South County Major Crimes Unit, a collaborative investigative unit between the King City and Greenfield police departments, interviewed suspects and took DNA swabs, trying to identify the girl’s rapist. DNA analysis, however, ruled out all potential suspects.
“Law enforcement even did a familial DNA search to possibly identify relatives of the rapist, but still were unable to find any clues that could identify the perpetrator,” the DA’s Office said.
Just as the case was about to go cold, police received a break in February 2020.
Ramirez, a cousin-in-law of the victim, added her on Snapchat. That was when she remembered that he had a similar accent and build to her rapist and she alerted the detectives.
“For multiple months, police tried to devise a ruse so that they could obtain Ramirez’s DNA without him knowing,” the DA’s Office said.
On May 20, 2020, King City Police set up a meeting with Ramirez under the pretext of discussing another burglary investigation. When Ramirez entered the police station, the detectives offered him a new disposable mask to replace his old one.
Upon receiving the new mask, Ramirez discarded his old one into a waste bin that was actually lined with an evidence bag. Detectives collected the mask after the meeting and submitted it to the California Department of Justice for DNA analysis.
The DNA sample obtained from the mask was a match to a DNA sample collected at the time of the initial investigation in 2018.
“Police sent the mask for DNA testing with a rush request,” the DA’s Office said. “Because of the seriousness of the case, the California Department of Justice expedited the request and was able to confirm 10 days later that Ramirez was in fact (the girl’s) rapist.”
Police arrested Ramirez on May 31, 2020, in King City.
Monterey County Judge Rafael Vasquez will preside over Ramirez’s sentencing, during which he will receive a mandatory sentence of life without parole.