(Kenai, AK) – On Wednesday, November 4, 2020, Carmen Perzechino, Jr., 59, was convicted by a jury following a three-week trial on two counts of Sexual Assault in the First Degree and one count of Kidnapping. The convictions stem from an incident that occurred along the Sterling Highway on January 20, 2001 after Perzechino met A.S. at a Soldotna bar and offered to give her a ride.
According to testimony presented at trial, while Perzechino was driving A.S. along the highway, he began to get verbally sexually aggressive towards her. Perzechino pulled off to the side of the highway. A.S. told Perzechino she wanted to return to the bar; he ignored her requests and stated they were going to have sex. A.S. tried running from the van on two occasions to get away from Perzechino and find help. On both occasions, Perzechino physically forced her back into the van. A.S. testified that Perzechino sexually assaulted her in two separate ways. A.S. testified that after the sexual assault, Perzechino continued driving down the highway, asking A.S. if anyone knew where she was, and threatened to kill her several times. A.S. believed that Perzechino was going to kill her. A.S. saw a Department of Transportation (“DOT”) truck along with a DOT employee in the median of the highway and jumped from Perzechino’s van to save her life.
The DOT worker called the Alaska State Troopers. Troopers responded and conducted a sexual assault response callout, which included the collection of a sexual assault kit from A.S. Troopers investigated the matter in 2001 but were unable to identify a suspect or the vehicle used in the assault. The sexual assault kit was not sent to the State Crime Lab for DNA testing in 2001 because standard practice at the time was to test kits when there was an identified suspect whose DNA could be directly compared to the DNA collected in the sex assault kit.
In 2016, the Alaska State Troopers applied for and received a grant under the federal Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (“SAKI”) Program to test all the Troopers’ untested sexual assault kits. As part of this grant program, A.S.’s kit was tested and a male DNA profile was identified. That profile was entered into CODIS, a national database of DNA profiles, and it matched to Perzechino’s known DNA profile. Investigation showed that Perzechino was living in Sterling at the time of the sexual assault, just a few miles from where A.S. was sexually assaulted. Further, Perzechino owned a van at the time that matched the vehicle described by A.S. and the DOT employee.
Perzechino was contacted by AST’s SAKI Investigator Michael Burkmire in January 2019. Perzechino denied having any knowledge of the events in question and denied having picked up a woman at a bar in 2001 or that a woman had jumped from his moving vehicle. Perzechino bought a ticket to the Philippines approximately 10 days after the conversation with Investigator Burkmire and left the country. Although he had a ticket to return on March 8, 2019, he did not return to the country and was arrested in the Philippines on April 4, 2019.
“We owe it to every survivor to never give up, and make sure every possible piece of evidence or lead is tracked down,” said Alaska Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price. “I would specifically like to thank DPS Investigator Michael Burkmire for his tireless work on this case that brought justice to the survivor and protected Alaskans by getting this offender off the streets. A huge thank you to the survivor for her strength and perseverance during a difficult process. DPS stands with and continues to fight for justice for every survivor.”
John Skidmore, Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Law, also praised the survivor in this case for her strength and perseverance. “She survived the sexual assault, she survived the two decades wait for the big break in the case, then survived the rigors of being cross examined as victim in a sexual assault case – something none of us would ever want to experience. And to top it all off, she testified at a time when jury trials have been suspended due to the global pandemic of COVID. She is truly a remarkable person. I also want to acknowledge and thank Jenna Gruenstein, who prosecuted this case, for her dedication and commitment to fighting the scourge of sexual assault in Alaska.”
Perzechino will be sentenced under the sentencing laws that were in place in 2001 and faces a presumptive term of imprisonment of eight years for each count of sexual assault and between five and 99 years of imprisonment for the kidnapping charge. Perzechino, who had been released on bail pending trial, was remanded following the jury’s verdict.
CONTACT: Assistant Attorney General Jenna Gruenstein at (907) 269-6250 or at email@example.com
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