The Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office announced last week the arrest of a Kearny man who is believed to have abducted a 16-year-old North Bergen girl off a township street last year, raped her, and left her naked in a Newark parking lot.
Prosecutor Edward DeFazio said that they have apprehended 22-year-old Elmo Rivadeneira, a mechanic from Kearny, and charged him with the May 17, 2005 knifepoint kidnapping and sexual assault of the unnamed teenager, as she walked home from work earlier that evening.
DNA samples taken from Rivadeneira matched bodily fluids that were recovered near the scene of the assault of the teenager.
Two years to trace phone
Rivadeneira was also charged with the Oct. 31, 2004 attack on a 29-year-old New York woman who was forced into a car after she left a Manhattan Halloween party on 29th Street. Rivadeneira allegedly sexually assaulted the woman in a remote location, then left her naked in an industrial section in Elizabeth.
Rivadeneira is also charged with the Sept. 15, 2004 attempted abduction of another woman in Manhattan, but that woman fought off her would-be attacker, drawing blood that was then left on the woman’s cell phone.
It was the DNA left on the cell phone that enabled law enforcement officials to trace the trail back to the Kearny auto mechanic.
“One of the main factors in this arrest was the cell phone,” DeFazio said. “The cell phone was received from the prior incident.”
With the help of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a trace on the cell phone’s purchase led to a store in Pennsylvania.
“That store then led us to the person who purchased the phone, and that person then said that they gave the cell phone to Elmo,” DeFazio said. “It was an important link.”
Could be linked to UC, other NB assaults
DeFazio said that Rivadeneira may be linked to as many as eight other sexual assaults in the north Hudson area, including another abduction off a North Bergen street later that year, on Kennedy Boulevard near 76th Street.
In that case, in December, 2005, another 16-year-old North Bergen girl was abducted, raped and dropped off in Elizabeth, directly paralleling the incident of the other township teen that took place in May.
In each case, the victims said that they were abducted by a Hispanic male and brought into cars that were various makes and models. They were all sexually assaulted in a remote location, then later released in either Newark or Elizabeth.
“The investigation is ongoing,” DeFazio said. “There could be other incidents in North Bergen, Union City, Jersey City and also in Manhattan.”
Rivadeneira is currently charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated assault, armed robbery and weapons offenses directly related to the first three cases, but he could face more charges if Rivadeneira can be linked to the litany of other attacks.
Rivadeneira could face charges and extradition to New York. For now, he’s being held in the Hudson County Jail in Kearny, after Superior Court Judge Kevin Callahan set the bail at $1 million cash.
Community groups taught defense
“New York authorities have instructed us that we can try the case first,” DeFazio said. “He’s not going anywhere. I’m gratified by the cooperative effort, with all the different agencies that has led to his apprehension and his removal from the streets.”
The case of the North Bergen rape had remained unsolved for over a year. Women in the township were fearful that the rapist and kidnapper would strike again. There were several community groups, like local churches and women’s organizations, that got together to form self-defense awareness teams and offer classes and lessons on how to protect themselves.
Only over the past two weeks did Rivadeneira emerge as a possible suspect.
“It was relatively recent,” DeFazio said. “Only when we did the tracing of the cell phone and the subsequent DNA linkage did we come to Rivadeneira.”
DeFazio said that law enforcement officials received information that led them to believe that Rivadeneira was possibly using the vehicles from the auto repair shop that he worked at in West Orange.
While the DNA evidence might be enough to convict Rivadeneira, there might be a slight obstacle involving the North Bergen girl.
“She did not believe that she could make a positive identification,” DeFazio said. “Plus, the victim has since moved out of state. But we were clearly looking for a bilingual Hispanic male, and this fellow is. He speaks fluent Spanish and English. He was [allegedly] a persistent sexual predator who went to extraordinary lengths to effectuate these kidnappings and sexual assaults. Thank God no one was killed.”
Rivadeneira’s attorney, Genesis Peduto of Jersey City, did not want to comment on behalf of her client, but told another reporter that it would be highly unlikely that her client could post the hefty bail.