Jaime L. Cruz had 54 days left to serve in prison on an aggravated drunken-driving conviction when a database spit out his name in connection with three unsolved rapes — one in Phoenix and two in Scottsdale.
On Monday, Cruz — who had no history as a sex offender — pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual assault and one count of attempted sexual assault. Under the plea deal, his sentencing range will be 31 1 /2 to 57 years with no parole, said Maricopa County Attorney’s Office spokesman Bill FitzGerald.
While Cruz, 27, was serving his 1 1 /2-year prison sentence last year, inmates convicted of murder, sex crimes and burglary were required to submit a blood sample to the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, a national database of DNA profiles of convicts and DNA evidence from crime scenes. Drug offenders were added to the group this year; beginning next year, all felons will have to submit DNA.
"Court documents show that there was a crime in his history that required DNA testing," Department of Corrections spokesman Jim Robideau said.
His hidden criminal past came to light because of a burglary conviction as a juvenile, said a source familiar with the case.
Phoenix police solved the two Scottsdale rapes and one in Phoenix to which Cruz pleaded guilty.
A 57-year-old Phoenix woman was sleeping on April 17, 2000, when someone jumped on her, covered her face with a pillow and comforter and raped her, according to a search warrant affidavit filed in Superior Court.
Eight months later, the Phoenix Police Crime Lab found that the biological evidence gathered from the attack matched ev idence gat hered from the two Scottsdale rapes, but police still had no suspect.
According to the search warrant, someone crawled through the window of a Scottsdale home on Sept. 12, 1996, woke up a 54-year-old woman and raped her.
A month later and a few blocks away, a 38-year-old Scottsdale woman awoke to find a "figure" in her bedroom, the warrant states. The man raped her.
On Aug. 8, 2001, Judge Robert Oberbillig sentenced Cruz to 1 1 /2 years in prison for aggravated DUI, court records show. Cruz has three prior felony convictions — for another aggravated DUI, resisting arrest and running from police.
Cruz had to give DNA samples during his last prison stint.
Exactly a year and a day after his sentencing, the Department of Public Safety matched Cruz to the three rapes, the warrant states.
Sentencing has been set for May 22.