Rafael Crespo: DNA evidence leads to murder arrest in 1996 cold case

Philadelphia Police Department. Rafael Crespo, 46.
Philadelphia Police Department. Rafael Crespo, 46.

Philadelphia police have made an arrest in connection with a North Philadelphia cold case from more than 16 years ago, and investigators say DNA evidence is to thank.

Florida man Rafael Crespo, 46, was on Monday formally charged with allegedly raping and murdering 17-year-old Anjeanette Maldonado of North Philadelphia, who was found strangled to death inside a vacant house on the 1700 block of Hope Street in the early morning hours of Oct. 2, 1996.

The student was apparently attacked while walking to school, dragged inside the property and assaulted, according to police.

Investigators with the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homicide Unit and Forensic Science Division cracked the case after a DNA sample obtained from Crespo was allegedly consistent with DNA recovered from the Maldonado murder scene and stored in CODIS, a nationwide DNA database maintained by the FBI.

Crespo is a convicted felon and registered sex offender in Florida, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The National Sex Offender Public Registry classifies Crespo as a “sexual predator,” a designation indicating authorities believe him to be a dangerous and repeat offender.

Crespo was formerly incarcerated in a Bowling Green, Fla. jail, where he was serving a 15-year sentence after being convicted in 2003 of the 1998 sexual battery of a minor in Osceola County, according to the state Department of Corrections website.

He was scheduled to be released in May 2015 but was remanded by court order to the custody of Philadelphia authorities, records state.

Detectives working the Maldonado case reportedly asked technicians last year to reanalyze the DNA found at the crime scene using technology that wasn’t yet available in 1996, which resulted in the match and Crespo’s subsequent arrest.

Crespo was arraigned in Philadelphia on Monday and is jailed at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.

He is next due in court for a preliminary hearing on April 17.


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