Idaho man arrested for rape, kidnapping of Bay Area teen 22 years later: Here's how he was caught

ByLena Howland KGO logo
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Man arrested for rape, kidnapping of Bay Area teen 22 years later
It was 22 years ago when Oakley police say a teen was out walking her dog on a trail and was approached by a man and ordered her into the backseat.

OAKLEY, Calif. (KGO) -- More than 20 years after a teenage girl was brutally kidnapped and raped in the East Bay, police finally made an arrest.

DNA technology led investigators in Oakley all the way to Idaho, where they arrested a suspect after all this time.

It was 22 years ago when Oakley police say a teenage girl was out walking her dog on a trail near what is now Laurel Road and Main Street.

She was approached by a man who got out of a car, pointed a gun at her and ordered her into the backseat.

"The man then drove her away to another park, I'm not sure where that was, but when they got there, he ordered her at gunpoint to perform sexual acts," Chief Paul Beard of the Oakley Police Department said.

Beard says she escaped, ran to a nearby house and called police.

RESOURCES: Get help with sexual assault, rape, and abuse

Investigators took a DNA swab from the victim.

The results were uploaded to a national database of other DNA profiles, called CODIS or Combined DNA Index System, with no hits for decades.

"Many of these profiles lie dormant, just waiting for something to be matched up to them," Beard said.

Two decades passed without any leads.

Then detectives learned of a possible DNA match two years ago.

That led them to 49-year-old Eric Ferguson of Northern Idaho.

The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office in Idaho tells ABC7 that the U.S. Marshal's Service had collected Ferguson's DNA following a felony domestic violence arrest in 2021 or 2022 in California, before he moved to Idaho. He was not convicted in that case.

"From our understanding, this is from a previous arrest where they had taken his DNA sample, and so it kind of gave them the tip but we needed to get it directly from a search warrant from his body and so it really got the investigation going again for them," Zachary Sifford, a spokesperson for the Kootenai County Sheriff's Office said.

Beard says two years later, two of his newer detectives got a search warrant to do their own DNA swab to confirm the match.

They hopped on a plane and with the help of three other agencies, they got a fresh DNA sample from Ferguson.

They flew it back to California and confirmed a match.

"They notified us and we assembled our joint task force swat team with the City of Coeur d'Alene Police and we executed that warrant for his arrest, he surrendered right away and went into custody without any incident," Sifford said.

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Charging documents from the Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office show the victim was under the age of 14 at the time of the rape.

Her age allows prosecutors to charge the suspect with a sentencing enhancement that removes the statute of limitations and makes Ferguson eligible for life in prison if he is convicted.

"I'm very hopeful that this development provides some resolve for our victim, I can't imagine going through life without that resolve so I'm hoping that we can get that for her," Beard said.

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Beard, crediting the good police work of his detectives who had utilized specialized training.

"I'm very proud of my guys, my guys had to really take the initiative to really bear down and do something that we've never done before," he said. "We never actually went across state lines to actually bring someone back to California so they really had to figure out and educate themselves how to get through this extradition process."

Ferguson is expected to be arraigned in court in Contra Costa County on June 6.

If you or a loved one needs support related to sexual assault or family violence, you can also visit Community Violence Solutions.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article stated that Ferguson's DNA swab was taken during a DUI arrest. The Kootenai County Sheriff's Office has since clarified that the swab was collected following an arrest in a domestic violence case. Ferguson was not convicted in that case.

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