DNA evidence has linked a California father to the cold case killings of five of his own infant children, authorities say.
Paul Perez, 57, who was serving a prison sentence on unrelated charges, was charged in the sprawling infanticide case just days before he was supposed to be released from custody, officials announced on Monday, according to NBC News.
Perez, who officials allege carried out the child killings between 1992 and 2001, was connected to the killings through DNA evidence, which investigators discovered in October. All of his alleged victims were under the age of 6 months, according to local newspaper the Woodland Daily Democrat.
"The investigation in this case uncovered a deeply disturbing, chilling case of infanticide," District Attorney Jeff Reisig told local media in Woodland, California, describing the child deaths as “serial murder.”
Perez’s alleged victims included Kato Allen Perez, born in 1992, Nikko Lee Perez, born in 1996, a second Nikko Lee Perez, who was born in 1997, Mika Alena Perez, born in 1995, and Kato Krow Perez, born in 2001, authorities said, BuzzFeed News reports.
Kato Allen and the elder Nikko Lee’s remains have been recovered but the bodies of the three other children haven’t yet been located, according to NBC.
"There can be no victim more vulnerable and innocent than an infant, and unfortunately this case involves five," Yolo County Sheriff Tom Lopez stated, BuzzFeed reports.
The county sheriff added that the case had “haunted” his department for years.
Authorities didn’t disclose a possible motive, nor did they specify how DNA led them to Perez, or whether he had fathered other children. However, detectives had been investigating the case since at least 2007, when the remains of an infant were discovered by a fisherman near Woodland.
When the man — who was using a bow and arrow to harpoon carp — mistakenly struck a mysterious object at the bottom of an irrigation slough, he made a grisly discovery. Inside the object, he discovered a baby’s decomposed remains wrapped in a blanket and weighed down by rocks, the Woodland Democrat reported.
A coroner’s report revealed the child’s skull had been fractured and that the infant had died from blunt force trauma, according to The Associated Press. There was also evidence the baby had a fractured rib.
The infant’s DNA was uploaded into an FBI database, but yielded no matches and for years, the case went unsolved. However, on Oct. 19, investigators, using new DNA techniques, identified the mystery baby as Nikko Lee Perez, according to BuzzFeed News. Authorities soon widened their search to create a list of possible relatives of Nikko Lee, which led them to Perez, authorities explained.
"Cold cases require a unique level of commitment and dedication," said state Justice Department official Ed Medrano. "The allegations we are discussing today are both senseless, evil and heartbreaking."
Perez was serving an 11-year prison term on separate charges related to vehicle theft and manufacturing deadly weapons when he was charged in the deaths of his five children. He could potentially face life in prison if convicted on the charges.
Perez is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, January 28, according to local outlet Fox 6.
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