Update: Earlier this week, we told you about the conviction of Ray Ojeda for an incredibly horrific sex assault and attempted murder on a fifteen-year-old girl back in 1997 — something made possible by a DNA match with a sample taken after he was arrested on a marijuana beef in Texas back in 2011. See our previous coverage below.
Now, the previously unidentified person he attacked and nearly killed has come forward to tell her story — one further illustrated by newly issued crime scene photos and a mug shot of Ojeda that offers a better indication of how he looked at the time of the crime.
Susie Hernandez is now 33-years-old — and she stands as a testament to the human will to survive, and thrive, after undergoing unimaginable trauma.
As noted in greater detail in the previous coverage that follows, Ojeda forced Hernandez into his truck at gunpoint, drove her to a remote location at 64th and York, near the Platte River, sexually assaulted her, shot her in the forehead, threw her in the water, then left, only to return to fire more shots and throw rocks in her direction before splitting for good.
Remarkably, Hernandez not only managed to live through this ordeal, but she was actually able to climb out of the river and walk until a motorist came to her aid.
"I remember just laying there, holding my head up looking at the sky thinking, 'I can’t do this,'" she tells 7News. "And then I took a deep breath and I regained myself and I walked a half mile through the field with thorns poking through my feet... and I pushed and I pushed until I got up to that highway."
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During her testimony at the trial, Hernandez admits that she tried not to look at Ojeda, although she could still see him from the corner of her eye. But she's worked hard not to let the moment she almost died define the rest of her life.
In her words, "I try not to think about him and his feelings or anything. I just basically want to live, I want to survive and I wasn't ever going to let him stop me from doing anything I want."
Here's the 7News interview, as well as original crime scene photos shared by the Denver District Attorney's Office. Get additional details, and see Ojeda's arrest report, in our previous coverage.
Original post, 6:30 a.m. April 9: Reasonable people can disagree about the marijuana laws in Texas, which are among the toughest in the nation.
But something positive for a Denver woman came out of Ojeda's pot conviction in the state.
An Ojeda DNA sample matched one from a rape and shooting that took place in 1997, when the woman was only fifteen years old.
Ojeda has now been convicted of the crimes, for which he could be sentenced to 144 years behind bars.
The horrific events are detailed in an arrest affidavit on view below.
Between midnight and 2 a.m. on June 14, 1997, a Denver police officer initiated an offense report based on an interview with the then-teenager.
She said she'd started walking home from her boyfriend's house just before midnight and was on the 2800 block of Holden when a truck pulled up next to her.
The driver allegedly stepped out of the vehicle, pointed a gun at her and ordered her to get inside.
After she did so, the man drove to a remote area near the intersection of 64th and York, at a location near a river.
There, the man allegedly ordered the teen to leave the vehicle, struck her twice with the gun near her head, took off her clothes and raped her, committing sex acts described in unsettling detail in the affidavit.
At that point, the teen said the man pointed his gun at her as she pleaded for her life and pulled the trigger several times.
The gun didn't fire with the first few trigger-pulls, but he kept trying — and eventually "shot the victim in the forehead," the report states.
Next, the man dragged the teen into the river and tossed her and her clothing into the river before leaving. But he returned a short time later, shooting and throwing rocks into the water where the teen had been.
Remarkably, the teen survived this unbelievable ordeal and crawled from the water after she heard the truck pull away a second time. A passerby found her walking along the roadway about ten minutes later.
By early 1998, the case had been designated as inactive but not cleared — and in 2004, the rape kit was reexamined. But it took until 2013 for the big break.
That's when a staffer at the Denver Police Department Crime Lab was informed that a DNA hit had been scored with Ojeda, who's said to have racked up a lengthy criminal history in Texas, Florida and Colorado, where he was residing at the time of the 1997 attack. He was on probation and living in San Antonio in 2013, but a 2011 felony conviction on a marijuana-related charge had prompted the DNA sample.
The victim didn't recognize Ojeda's photo when it was shown to her. However, she was able to confirm that he had never been a consensual sexual partner — and the DNA report showed a match with Ojeda.
The jury looking into the evidence was convinced, finding Ojeda guilty of attempted first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and first-degree sexual assault. According to the Denver District Attorney's Office Ojeda will be sentenced in June, with possible punishment topping out at 144 years. The DA's office adds that Ojeda's conviction formally exonerates two other men who'd been identified as possible suspects in the case.
Look below to see a more recent booking photo of Ojeda, followed by the arrest affidavit.
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