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Mexican Man Accused of 2006 Cold Case Murder Of Roommate In Colorado

Francisca Perea-Dominguez was Salvador Hernandez-Morales' roommate in 2006 in Aurora when she was raped and murdered. Police now say DNA has connected him to the crime.

By Megan Carpentier
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An arrest warrant has been issued for a man long suspected of raping and murdering his roommate in 2006.

Salvador Hernandez-Morales, 45, has been charged with first degree murder after deliberation, first degree murder and sexual assault of his then-roommate, Francisca Perea-Dominguez, 42, according to a press release from the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office in Colorado.

Hernandez-Morales was a person of interest in her death for more than 16 years, but he was never interviewed by police. Witnesses told police at the time that they believed he'd returned to Mexico. Recent DNA testing reportedly gave police probable cause for the arrest warrant, and the D.A.'s office says they intend to seek his extradition.

Court documents reviewed by Denver NBC affiliate KUSA indicate that Perea-Dominguez went to a club with her friend's brother on June 30, returning shortly after 3:00 a.m., and the friend and her brother became worried when she didn't answer phone calls the following day. The friend went over to the apartment, found the door unlocked and discovered Perea-Dominguez's dead, bloodied body on the floor of her bedroom.

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Police were called to the scene around 3:00 p.m. on July 1, 2006, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. They determined she had been stabbed once in the stomach and sexually assaulted, according to the Denver Post. They found her torn and bloody underwear two feet from her body, and believe that her shorts were put back on after her death, based on the way they were positioned, KUSA reported.

Her downstairs neighbor told police that she heard a bunch of "bumping and running" between 11:30 a.m. and noon that day, saying it sounded as if people were wrestling. She then saw Perea-Dominguez's roommate, whose name she didn't know, leaving the apartment in a hurry around 1:00 p.m. in his customary white cowboy hat and driving off in a 1994 white Ford Explorer.

A police handout of Salvador Hernandez-Morales

Investigators found a number of documents — including phone bills, a Western Union receipt and a paystub with a different address — in the home in the name of Salvador Hernandez, according to KUSA. They found the Ford Explorer, which was not registered in his name, near the apartment listed on the paystub on July 2, and pulled over the driver. He said he'd borrowed it from a guy named Chabba who was friends with his cousin; the cousin said Chabba's real name was Salvador but couldn't remember his last name. The apartment turned out to belong to Hernandez-Morales' sister, who claimed he lived with his girlfriend "Kiki" — a colloquial nickname for Francisca is "Quica" — in the area of Perea-Dominguez's apartment.

Police and the witness did not corroborate the assertion that Hernandez-Morales, who was 29 at the time, was romantically involved with the 42-year-old Perea-Dominguez.

In the Ford Explorer, police found both a Social Security and a Permanent Resident card for Salvador Hernandez, a white cowboy hat and three passport-style photos of Perea-Dominguez, according to the arrest warrant reviewed by KUSA.

DNA was collected from semen stains found on a bloody white towel wrapped around Perea-Dominguez's arm, on her pajama bottoms and in the sexual assault kit performed during her autopsy. Tests performed in 2007 allegedly showed a match in the semen samples' DNA to DNA found on a blue toothbrush found in the apartment and the white towel found with her body. However, without a DNA sample that could be definitely confirmed as Hernandez-Morales', the case went cold.

But, in 2021, a new detective assigned to the case sent the white cowboy hat found in Hernandez-Morales' Ford Explorer out for DNA analysis, and allegedly determined that the DNA in the hat matched the DNA on the toothbrush and from Perea-Dominguez's sexual assault kit, KUSA reported. 

The DNA was not a match with two other potential suspects in the case.

Despite having had permanent resident status in 2006, his staying outside the country for more than a year would have invalidated Hernandez-Morales's immigration status. He nonetheless allegedly returned to the United States in 2009, was caught and was deported, the Post reported, because no warrant had been issued for his arrest in Perea-Dominguez's case.

“We expect that this defendant is going to have to be extradited,” Senior Chief Deputy D.A. Chris Wilcox said in a statement. “Over the next several months, we’re going to be working on that process.” 

“This defendant has evaded justice for too long,” District Attorney John Kellner added. 

“This is an example of the commitment and tenacity of this organization to go after people who commit horrific crimes no matter how long it takes,” Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said. “We look forward to the day we can hold this suspect accountable.”