MODESTO — Modesto police have arrested the suspect wanted in last week's violent sexual assault at Mancini Park, where a mother was attacked in front of her two young children.
With a "collaboration of evidence," investigators identified 27-year-old John Lelan Carter on Wednesday afternoon as a person of interest in the assault, said Lt. Rick Armendariz.
Wednesday night, Manteca police made contact with Carter for an unrelated crime and learned he was wanted for questioning by Modesto police.
Manteca police notified Modesto detectives, who went to Manteca to interview Carter. Armendariz said detectives had enough evidence to arrest Carter on suspicion of rape, felony assault and child abuse.
The assault occurred Oct. 18 about 2:40 p.m. in Mancini Park. Modesto police officers were called to the park at 1204 River Road in south Modesto on a report of an assault.
When they arrived, they learned a mother had been violently sexually assaulted by a stranger while visiting the park with her two children, ages 1 and 8.
The suspect approached the victim, punched her in the face and pulled her to the ground.
She was holding her 1-year-old child in her arms at the time and the suspect's attack caused the child to fall to the ground. Once on the ground, the suspect sexually assaulted the victim, according to police.
A woman who was nearby saw the assault and quickly grabbed the two children and ran to get help.
Detectives and crime scene investigators collected physical evidence, which included the suspect's DNA.
Thursday afternoon, Modesto police detectives got confirmation from the Department of Justice that Carter's DNA profile matched that of the DNA evidence collected by crime scene investigators, Armendariz said.
Carter's criminal history includes an arrest for domestic violence, but he had never been arrested for a sex crime, Armendariz said. Carter is considered transient; his last known address was in Fresno.
"We are very appreciative of the tireless work by all those involved in this case, including the staff from DOJ, officers from Manteca police and investigators from our department," said acting Capt. Scott Heller, who is commander of the investigations division.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (209) 521-4636. Callers to Crime Stoppers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward. Tipsters can text information to Crime Stoppers by sending a text message to 274637. Type "TIP704" plus a message.
Bee staff writer Erin Tracy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209)578-2366.