Nearly 13 years after the remains of a 1-month-old infant were found in Sacramento, California, authorities have charged a man in connection with the case. According to The New York Times, the man has been identified as 57-year-old Paul Perez of Delano, California, who was already serving time in prison for unrelated offenses.
Perez is a convicted sex offender and has been incarcerated since 2010 for several crimes ranging from vehicle theft to the possession of a deadly weapon. Following his arrest, authorities charged Perez with the killing of four other infants, all aged less than six months.
In a press release issued on January 27, the Yolo County Sheriff’s Office revealed that they had reopened the cold case after they used DNA evidence to identify the remains and were able to link the death to Perez. The names of the deceased infants have also been released.
The oldest infant was killed in 1992, while the last known murder was committed in 2007. The body found in 2007, which led to the eventual arrest, was identified as Nikko Lee Perez. The other infants allegedly killed by Perez were Kato Allen Perez, born in 1992; Mika Alena Perez, in 1995; Nikko Lee Perez, in 1997; and Kato Krow Perez, in 2001.
An arrest has been made in connection with a 2007 cold case involving the death of an infant, whose body was located in Yolo County, and the suspected homicides of four additional infants under the age of six months.
— Yolo County Sheriff's Office (@YoloCoSheriff) January 27, 2020
According to Sherrif Tom Lopez, the case dates back to March 2007 when a Sacramento fisherman discovered the decomposed body of a deceased infant sealed inside a container, weighed down with heavy objects.
The infant was found wearing a diaper and wrapped in a Winnie the Pooh blanket inside a metal cooler. The cooler itself was weighed down with metal rotors and other U-shaped metal pieces. According to the police, at the time of discovery, the body had remained there for more than a decade.
The cause of death was listed as blunt force trauma. Officials, however, were unable to identify the infant or crack the case for 12 more years.
In October 2019, using a new technique of DNA comparison called kinship-based search, the Yolo County Coroner’s Office was able to identify the baby as Nikko Lee Perez. The breakthrough came after the infant’s DNA was uploaded to the California Department of Justice’s Missing Persons DNA Program database. Officials then arranged for the DNA to be checked weekly against the federal Combined DNA Index System.
Ultimately, they expanded their search to look for kinship-based matches. Using this technology, officials were able to create a list of potential siblings and parents of the infant.
Using this DNA evidence, authorities were reportedly able to connect the infant to Paul Perez, whose DNA was already in the database because of his incarceration. Armed with the same DNA data, officials were purportedly able to connect four other infants, later identified as Nikko’s siblings. Officials say they also suffered a similar fate.
According to District Attorney Jeff Reisig, if Paul Perez is found guilty of the murder charges, he faces life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. It would, however, take several months before prosecutors decide if they want to seek capital punishment for Perez. It also remains to be seen if they are able to prove Perez’s involvement in all five murders.