DNA CODIS match tied defendant to both sexual assaults

Atlanta–Fulton County District Attorney Paul L. Howard, Jr., announces the RAPE conviction, by a Fulton County Superior Court Jury, of 33-year-old GABRIEL RENDON-VILLASANA.

In the early morning hours of June 21, 2015, a 19-year-old woman was in the Buckhead club district with a group of friends when they decided it was time to leave. The victim and her male friend were picked up by Gabriel Rendon-Villasana who claimed to be an Uber driver. Villasana drove the female victim and her male friend to a hotel at Tower Place and Piedmont Road in Atlanta. The male passenger exited the vehicle, and suddenly Villasana sped away with the 19-year-old female victim still in the backseat. The male passenger called Atlanta Police to report that his friend was kidnapped. At some point, after the male passenger was dropped off, Villasana raped the female victim in the vehicle and left her on a sidewalk on Lakemore Drive, 3.4 miles from the hotel. A good-Samaritan returned the female victim to the hotel where she was staying with her friends. The victim was intoxicated and did not remember the encounter with Villasana; however, based on a piece of sensitive information that she provided the responding Atlanta Police Officers, they suggested she undergo a sexual assault kit, which confirmed the presence of unidentified male DNA. At the time, police were unable to locate a suspect.

Four months later, on October 4, 2015, in an eerily similar fashion, Villasana identified himself as an Uber driver to a 22-year-old female and her male friend who were attempting to leave a Buckhead bar. The female victim and her male friend entered the back seat of a Kia Sorrento Villasana was driving. When they arrived at the male passenger’s home, he exited the vehicle, but before he could close the door, Villasana sped off with the female victim still in the backseat. Sandy Springs Police Officers spotted the Kia Sorento, driving at night without its headlights activated, some 14 miles from the spot where the male passenger exited the vehicle. The officer pursued the Kia Sorrento, Villasana stopped and exited the vehicle, but he fled the scene on foot. After a brief pursuit, the defendant eluded capture by police. When officers returned to the vehicle, they discovered a woman sitting in the back of the Kia Sorrento. The woman was highly intoxicated and said she did not know the driver but entered the vehicle because she believed the defendant was an Uber driver. The officer observed that the woman’s clothes were unbuttoned and her underwear was showing. Based on her physical appearance and the nature of the situation, the Sandy Springs Officers suggested the victim undergo a sexual assault kit examination, even though, based upon her intoxication she did not remember the rape. The sexual assault kit test; however, revealed the presence of male DNA.

During the search of Villasana’s Kia Sorrento, Sandy Springs Police discovered seven pairs of used female panties.

“What that says to us is there are as many as seven other women in our community who have yet to come forward who were sexually assaulted by this man. It means these women are carrying an awful secret and have not called law enforcement because they believe nothing will be done. We want to urge these women and any other victims who Villasana sexually assaulted to come forward. The criminal justice system can hold him accountable for these heinous crimes.”  

 –Paul L. Howard, Jr.
Fulton County District Attorney

Sandy Springs Police determined Villasana was the suspect because officers located his phone in the Kia Sorrento. On October 5, 2015, one day after the second rape, Villasana was arrested in Marietta. He was transported to the Fulton County Jail on October 6, 2015. On December 16, 2016, DNA from the June 2015 rape in Atlanta matched the DNA found in the October 2015 rape in Sandy Springs. On January 30, 2017, Villasana was identified as the suspect in both rape cases.

In an emotional impact statement during the sentencing hearing held for Villasana, one victim noted that the defendant through his rape of her has, “taken a physical piece of (her) life” (she) can never recover.”

 Another victim said she is, “traumatized for life” as a result of Villasana’s criminal actions.

VILLASANA was convicted of RAPE, SEXUAL BATTERY, AND AGGRAVATED ASSAULT WITH INTENT TO RAPE. Villasana was sentenced to LIFE IN PRISON PLUS 60 YEARS.

Judge Shukura Ingram Millender, of the Superior Court of Fulton County, presided over the case. Deputy District Attorney Amy Ferguson led the prosecution of the case. She was assisted by Assistant District Attorney Shaniqua Christian, Assistant District Attorney Julianna Peterson, Investigator James Spear and Victim-Witness-Advocate Jamaila Winn of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Det. R. Sluss from the Atlanta Police Department, Detective Lapides from the Sandy Springs Police Department, and Detective C. White from the Roswell Police Department were the Lead Investigators in the case.