Orange County sheriff's deputies arrest man linked to 2 rape cold cases

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- Orange County sheriff's deputies have arrested a man tied to two cold cases dating back to 1995 and 1998.

Investigators say the arrest came using DNA techniques similar to those used to catch the alleged Golden State Killer. During a news conference, OCSD Sheriff Don Barnes said 53-year-old Kevin Konther of Highland was arrested at his home Thursday. He's being held on suspicion of kidnapping and raping at least two victims.

The first victim, a 9-year-old girl, was walking home from buying school supplies on Oct. 21, 1995. She was walking near the Serrano Creek Park in Lake Forest around 6:30 p.m.

"The girl was grabbed by a man from behind and dragged from the sidewalk into a nearby wooded area," Barnes said.

The man raped her and let her go. Deputies say she ran home and told her parents immediately. Despite a search, the man was not found, but his DNA was collected.

There were no matches for the sample in the law enforcement database, but the little girl also helped an artist create a sketch of the suspect.

The second victim was a 31-year-old woman who was kidnapped and raped while jogging at 11:30 a.m. on June 2, 1998, on a trail in Mission Viejo near El Toro Road and Marguerite Parkway. Deputies say the woman was grabbed from behind and pulled into the bushes, then raped. Again, the suspect got away, but his DNA was collected. It was determined it matched the crime from 1995, but again, no matches in the system.

More than 20 years later, using new techniques, investigators found their man they believe is responsible.

"In an unexpected turn of events, the DNA profile led to not just one individual but two: twin brothers," Barnes said.

The identical twins lived in Highland. Deputies arrested both men and after further investigation released one and booked Konther into jail.

Konther now faces life in prison.

Detectives notified the victims immediately.

"Simply, she was shocked, she was shocked," Barnes said about the victim who was 9 at the time. "The other woman, who is now in her 50s, was elated."

Barnes and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer gave credit to the investigator who cracked the cold case and to the new DNA tools available to law enforcement.

"What we know about genealogical DNA: It doesn't replace good, old-fashioned work, but it provides amazing leads," Spitzer said.

Konther's bail is set at $1 million. Investigators are looking into the possibility he may be linked to other crimes in the area.
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