YONKERS, N.Y. — A man now accused of raping and strangling three women in a New York suburb starting 21 years ago was never even suspected until he submitted a DNA sample after a drunken-driving arrest last year, officials said Thursday.
Investigators had looked at "way more than 100" other potential suspects over the years before they found the blood sample from Francisco Acevedo, 41, matched DNA evidence from the killings, said Yonkers Detective John Geiss.
Geiss, the only Yonkers officer working full-time on cold cases, said he'd been on the serial killings for "nine long years." The killings, which were linked to each other by DNA and other evidence, occurred in 1989, 1991 and 1996.
"I didn't think we'd see the day that we'd come to the point we're at now," he said.
Acevedo, who was already imprisoned on the DWI charge, apparently had no idea Yonkers detectives were finally closing in on him. He gave up his DNA sample as a condition of an optional parole application, and police said he was surprised when he was arrested in an upstate prison on the murder charges.
"He wasn't very happy to see us," Geiss said at a news conference in police headquarters.
Acevedo was indicted Wednesday on six counts of murder, three of which also allege rape. He pleaded not guilty. A call to his lawyer, Tamika Coverdale, was not immediately returned.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison with no hope of parole.
Geiss said Acevedo had lived in many other jurisdictions over the years in Westchester, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Florida and most recently in Suffolk County, N.Y., where the DWI arrest occurred. He said several police departments from those areas were inquiring about Acevedo in connection with their own unsolved cases.
Police Commissioner Edmund Hartnett said Acevedo had lived in two Yonkers apartments as well as in the Bronx and Mount Vernon during the time of the killings, working at factory jobs. Geiss said the suspect was "very familiar" with the area where the bodies were found.
The victims were Maria Ramos, 26, of the Bronx, killed Feb. 5, 1989; Tawana Hodges, 28, of the Bronx, killed March 28, 1991; and Kimberley Moore, 30, of Greenburgh, killed May 24, 1996.
All were found naked, bound at the hands and facing up.
Geiss said the three killings constituted the last unsolved multiple slaying in his cold-case files, though he still has 28 other cases ranging back to 1986.
He said the victims' families were "very happy, very happy to have some answers."
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Donald Dozier, Moore's stepfather, attended Acevedo's arraignment Wednesday and said that after 14 years he was grateful for the arrest and would monitor his trial, The Journal News reported. Dozier had helped raise Moore's two children. Other relatives of the victims would not comment.