More than a year after a 13-year-old girl was found brutally beaten and stabbed to death in a Sacramento park, authorities said they have arrested a man in connection to her death.
Sacramento County sheriff's detectives announced Thursday that DNA evidence led them to arrest Ryan Douglas Roberts, 23, on suspicion of killing Jessica Funk-Haslam, who was found dead March 6, 2012, from a stab wound, blunt-force trauma and asphyxia.
Authorities said he wasn't even on their radar until DNA collected at the scene matched his.
“We knew pretty early on we had a foreign DNA sample there and it was our obligation, obviously, to figure out who it belonged to,” said Det. Tony Turnbull.
Roberts’ DNA was already in the system after a domestic violence arrest in May. He wasn’t charged in that incident.
“What we perhaps thought initially might be an easy case to bring the offender to justice, turned out to be exactly the opposite,” said Sheriff Scott Jones.
Roberts was arrested between 10 and 11 p.m. Wednesday night near where he works.
Roberts is the only person suspected in the killing.
Records show that Roberts had two run-ins with the law. In May, he was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, but was not charged.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the felony arrest triggered collection of his DNA, under California's Proposition 69. His DNA profile was uploaded into state and national databases, leading to the alleged match, the newspaper reported.
Roberts didn’t live in one of the initial 200 homes searched following Funk-Haslam’s death, but he does live close to the park where the girl was found.
Detectives cite a little bit of dumb luck in catching Roberts.
“You figure if somebody is going to do something like that to a 13-year-old girl, at some point in their life they are going to have more impulsive behavior that is going to get them in trouble and we’re going to get that evidence that we need,” Turnbull said.
The girl's death prompted a huge outcry in Sacramento and hundreds of her classmates and community members were interviewed during the investigation.