Suspect identified in 1997 cold-case rape, murder of 26-year-old woman in Costa Mesa

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Police on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017 named a suspect in the 1997 rape and murder of a 26-year-old Costa Mesa woman. (Costa Mesa Police Department)

DNA evidence has led investigators to identify a suspect in the cold-case rape and murder of a 26-year-old Costa Mesa woman that occurred in 1997, authorities said.

Twenty years to the day that Sunny Sudweeks was found brutally attacked in her apartment, the Costa Mesa Police Department on Thursday named Felipe Vianney Hernandez Tellez as the suspected killer.

The determination was "based on the the familial DNA and the fingerprint evidence, as well as the evidence that we possess in the case," police Chief Robert Sharpnack said at a news conference.

Sudweeks was a photography student at Orange Coast College when she was murdered. At the time, her parents participated in the search for their daughter's killer.

"It's been a long time coming," the victim's mother, Sandy Sudweeks, said at the press conference, "and we're so grateful to the Costa Mesa Police Department for all the work they've done."

According to the agency, had previously lived in Costa Mesa and was residing in Santa Ana at the time of the fatal attack. He and Sudweeks did not know each other.

Detectives said they solved the case with help from evidence recovered at the murder scene and fingerprints collected from a 1995 burglary conviction in Newport Beach.

According to police, Tellez fled to Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006.

"For twenty years, he has been enjoying life, living with several families, raising his own children," said Alan Sudweeks, "and yet he denied us the comfort and value of our daughter."

After charges are filed and the extradition process begins, authorities said, it is unclear how long it will be before Tellez is brought to Orange County.
Related Topics:
newscold casemurdermurder mysteryOrange County
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