Burned cigarette leads to solving 14 year old rape case

Man smoking a cigarette  
By: Debbie Gross 

A man was busted for rape and robbery after DNA was collected from a discarded cigarette he threw on the floor.

A Staten Island man who raped and robbed a college professor 14 years ago, with a piece of broken glass to her neck, pleaded guilty of the heinous crime on Tuesday after being arrested by police who collected a discarded cigarette at the scene of another crime.

Lerio Guerrero, 34, threw a cigarette butt near the scene of a sexual assault in Brooklyn. Although he was never charged in the rape, police arrested him for trespassing and matched his DNA on the cigarette. A search of the state DNA database came up with a hit of rape in Orchard St. on a cold night back in November 1998.

A masked Guerrero followed a 28-year-old teacher, as she entered her apartment building, and then raped and sodomized her.
Not satisfied with just the brutality and taking what was left in her wallet, the psychopath pulled up to an ATM to steal her money in the bank.

"He held a piece of broken glass to her neck. He said there was not enough money in her wallet," Assistant District Attorney Martha Bashford said. The prosecutor said he forced her to call her credit card company to allow him to steal more money from her account.
He stole $800, but when he forced her to a second ATM, the victim was able to free herself and call for help.

Without the name of a suspect, in 2005 prosecutors charged only the DNA extracted from the blood left behind on the arms of the victim when he cut his hand on the glass. Guerrero, 34, evaded capture during the next decade and a half despite running into the law in a handful of misdemeanors and a conviction for drunken driving.

James Palumbo, his lawyer, said Guerrero struggled with alcoholism, but was attending classes at the College of Staten Island and trying to change his life when he was arrested. "He had a difficult childhood," said Palumbo. "He was pulling together for the first time."

In exchange for pleading guilty to rape, sodomy, robbery and burglary, Guerrero agreed to do 15 years behind bars instead of the maximum of 25 he faced.