Decades-Old Cold Case of Sexual Assault in Central Texas Solved With Use of DNA

Decades-Old Cold Case of Sexual Assault in Central Texas Solved With Use of DNA
Jessie Rodriguez

A nearly two-decades old cold case has been solved thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Texas Rangers and local law enforcement. 

Last month, the 35th Judicial District Court of Mills County convicted Jessie Rodriquez, 41, of attempted aggravated sexual assault, a second-degree felony. Rodriquez received the maximum 20-year prison sentence.

The charges and conviction stem from a 2005 cold case in Mills County. In the early morning hours of Aug. 13, 2005, Rodriguez broke into a home, took a knife from the kitchen and entered a bedroom where a 21-year-old woman was sleeping. He held the knife to her throat and attempted to sexually assault her. Rodriquez briefly moved the knife during the attack, and the woman was able to wrestle the weapon away.

During the altercation, both the victim and Rodriquez were cut with the knife, and Rodriquez left a drop of blood in the home prior to fleeing.

Sheriff’s investigators recovered the blood, and a Texas DPS Crime Lab forensic scientist developed a single source DNA profile originating from the unknown male suspect at the time. The profile was entered into CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System), but no matches were initially identified. Sheriff’s investigators continued working the case and collecting samples with no luck.

In 2021, the Texas Rangers met with the Mills County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and began the process of a CODIS familial DNA search, which was made possible through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) — a federal grant through the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) that provides funding for advanced DNA testing. 

Through SAKI, DPS Crime Labs in Waco and Garland, along with the CODIS section in Austin, prepared and checked the single source profile from the case against more than a million profiles in CODIS for a familial match. The results indicated a convicted felon whose DNA profile was in CODIS shared a paternal relative with the unknown profile — now identified as Rodriquez — whose blood was found at the victim’s home in 2005. 

The Texas Rangers turned the information over to MCSO. With this new information, MCSO developed a suspect through genealogy. After conducting surveillance and collecting a DNA sample, forensic scientists from the DPS Lab in Waco confirmed the true identity of the suspect as Jessie Rodriguez. He confessed to the crime and in December 2023, pleaded guilty.

The Texas Rangers would like to thank the DPS Crime Lab forensic scientists in Waco, Garland and the Austin CODIS section, as well as the Mills County Sheriff’s Office and 35th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, for their work to bring this cold case to a successful conclusion.