WOODLAND, Calif. (CBS13/AP) — An arrest has been made in the death of an infant whose body was found in 2007 by a fisherman in California. Through DNA, authorities able to link the murder of four other babies to the same suspect, they said on Monday.
Paul Perez, 57, is being charged with five counts of premeditated, first-degree murder and with five enhancements of lying in wait, and torture, according to Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig.
“As you can imagine, having an unsolved death of a child in our files has haunted my agency for years,” Sheriff Tom Lopez of the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office said.
The infant’s body was found on March 29, 2007, in an irrigation canal popular with anglers looking for carp or catfish. A fisherman named Brian Roller told local news reporters at the time that he shot an arrow into the murky water, and it struck a box buried under the mud. When he hauled the box out of the water and opened it, he found stones used to weigh it down and the baby’s badly decomposed body wrapped in a blanket. Authorities said a decomposed diaper was also in the box, indicating the infant had been cared for at some point.
Investigators immediately treated the case as a homicide and submitted the baby’s DNA to the U.S. Department of Justice in hopes of obtaining an identity.
“In this case, we were able to with our missing person’s DNA program take the DNA profile from the infant and search it using a different technique to establish familiar relationships across a different index,” Barry Miller, Bureau of Forensic Services at the California Department of Justice, said.
They also enlisted the help of a forensic anthropologist, who determined the remains were those of a boy about one month old who died of blunt force trauma.
Though DNA comparison, the infant found in 2007 was identified as Nikko Lee Perez, born 1996 in Fresno. Nikko was then linked through DNA to other siblings. Another sibling, Kato Allen Perez, born in Merced in 1992, is known to have died. Three other siblings of the alleged victims are also believed to also be dead, although their remains were never located. They are Mika Alena Perez, born in Merced in 1995, Nikko Lee Perez, born in Fresno in 1997, and Kato Krow Perez, born in Fresno 2001. All of the infants were believed to be under 6 months old when they died.
Perez was arrested at the Kern Valley State Prison, just days before he was scheduled to be released. He was serving time for offenses unrelated to this case.
“The allegations announced today are heartbreaking. There is absolutely no place in our society for horrendous crimes against children,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “At the California Department of Justice, we will do everything in our power to track down criminals who think they have evaded the grip of justice.”
The case remains under investigation.
Some folks CBS13 spoke with hope this case being cracked can provide heal some wound from the past.
“In some way, I’m sure relieved to know that whoever was capable of doing that is now getting justice. And now, people are able to start to heal,” Sarah Cummings of Woodland said.
Perez’s arraignment is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)