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A man accused of beating and raping a University of Colorado student in 1997 was found guilty on all counts Friday afternoon, ending her family's 12-year quest for answers.Diego Olmos Alcalde, 39, was found guilty of first-degree murder, sexual assault and kidnapping in the death of 23-year-old Susannah Chase.It took the jury only five hours to deliberate the case that had been cold for more than a decade."We just did our duty and now we're done with it," said a juror who did not want to be named."I think justice was served today," said juror Alice Blazon, who embraced Susannah Chase's mother, Julie after leaving the courtroom. "As a mother it was a sense of relief from one mother to another," she said.Julie Chase said the verdict was a relief, even as she continued to grieve her daughter's violent death. "It's a relief in terms of justice," she said. "It's not a particular relief in terms of the loss that our family had."Alcalde will be sentenced on Monday and will spend the rest of his life in prison.Prosecutors said Olmos Alcalde's DNA was found inside Chase and that DNA on a baseball bat from Olmos Alcalde's ex-girlfriend links the Chilean native to the murder."I've said from the beginning that this case was solved by a nurse who thought to take a swab from Susannah Chase," said prosecutor Ryan Brackley.Defense attorneys argued prosecutors failed to pursue other suspects. They also said Olmos Alcalde had consensual sex with Chase, which explains why his DNA was on her body.Prosecutors said the claim that the sex was consensual is "preposterous." After the verdict, prosecutor Amy Okubo said it was an argument that the jury flatly rejected. "Their verdict made it clear that that would not be a possibility," she said.Chase, a senior from Stamford, Conn., was attacked on a street corner and dumped in an alley while walking home alone from a pizza parlor.Olmos Alcalde was linked to the cold case last year through a DNA sample taken from him after he was convicted in Wyoming for kidnapping."We always had hope that some day we would get a match on that DNA and sure enough, we did," said Boulder police chief Mark Beckner.Olmos Alcalde had denied knowing Chase or having been to Boulder in decades, but that changed as the trial began with Olmos Alcalde claiming he had consensual sex with Chase.
Diego Olmos Alcalde is on trial for murder, sexual assault and kidnapping.
"The defendant would like you to believe that he was Romeo out there, suave," prosecutor Amy Okubo told jurors before they were given the case. Okubo said it was unlikely that Chase would have met Olmos Alcalde and had sex with him, since she had spent the last three days of her life attending a graduation ceremony, buying Christmas presents and spending the night at a hotel with her boyfriend and his family.Okubo said Chase wasn't a reckless woman who would have random sex with someone.Prosecutors said the murder weapon, a child-size baseball bat, belonged to Olmos Alcalde's ex-girlfriend. They said the ex-girlfriend's DNA was found on the bat, linking Olmos Alcalde to the beginning and end of the crime. Defense attorneys had argued that partial fingerprints and the DNA profile of another male also were found on the bat handle, suggesting that the real killer was still on the loose. Okubo said investigators have checked the DNA profile with a national database and came up with no suspects, and that the other set of DNA likely came from a child. "The defendant wants you to believe astronomical coincidences are out there," she said. "That the bat directly connected to... the defendant's girlfriend was used by some unknown person to kill Susannah Chase. That's impossible. It's preposterous." Defense attorney Mary Claire Mulligan said nurses and doctors who treated Chase indicated at the time that there was no evidence of sexual assault. She also told jurors that Chase's jeans had no blood on them, despite the bloodiness of the crime scene and prosecutors' allegation that the assailant put the woman's jeans on Chase's body after the sexual assault. "They assumed that whoever had sex with her must have killed her, so they focused on that and they put on blinders to everything else," Mulligan told jurors.
Susannah Chase, a senior at CU, was attacked a block from her home on Dec. 21, 1997. She died the next day in a hospital.
During 10 days of testimony, jurors heard from Olmos Alcalde's half-sister, Ona Bayers, and his ex-girlfriend, Sonci Francis. Both women told jurors that days after Chase's death, Olmos Alcalde described a similar attack in which the victim was a man he got into a fight with at a bar. Jurors also heard from the victim in the Wyoming kidnapping case, who described how Olmos Alcalde in 2000 followed her home, then attacked her in a parking lot and tried to drag her away to a secluded area. Her family, who was nearby, came to her rescue. Chase had left a pizzeria after an argument with her boyfriend and was attacked a block from her home on Dec. 21, 1997. She died the next day in a hospital -- the same day she was supposed to fly home to Connecticut for Christmas.
Attorney Ryan Brackley, right, hugs Julie, mother of Susannah Chase, after Diego Olmos Alcalde was found guilty of killing and raping Susannah.
Olmos Alcalde was not among the suspects just after the slaying, when police interviewed hundreds of people, including Chase's boyfriend, and took DNA samples from at least 50 men. No matches were made and leads in the case eventually fizzled out. DNA was first collected from Olmos Alcalde in 2001 after the Wyoming kidnapping conviction. After years of appeals, a new trial in the Wyoming case and a long wait caused by a backlog of thousands of samples in Wyoming's state lab, Olmos Alcalde's DNA profile was uploaded into a national DNA database in January 2008. He was arrested within days.