Twenty-eight years after a strangled Santa Clara County woman’s body was found tossed into a supermarket dumpster, a Fresno man was charged Monday in a case that broke because of the DNA under the woman’s fingernails.
Mountain View police spokesman Sean Thompson said that investigators used a match on the state’s DNA database to identify Daniel Garcia, now 53, as the alleged killer of Saba Girmai. After an investigation, Garcia was arrested on Friday, and is now in custody without bail.
A family friend, Kesete Hintsa, told NBC Bay Area late Monday that the arrest comes as a “big relief.” No one ever knew what happened to Girmai. “This is big news,” he said.
“We never forget about unsolved murder cases and continuously seek out new technology and new leads to help us solve them,” Mountain View Police Department Chief Scott S.G. Vermeer said in a statement. “Hopefully this will help bring some closure to Ms. Girmai’s family.”
Added Deputy District Attorney Ted Kajani: “No matter how long ago someone was murdered, we don’t forget about them.’’
The charge stems from Jan. 18, 1985, when a passerby found the body in the dumpster near Bailey Park Plaza and Safeway shopping center at 570 N. Shoreline Blvd. in Mountain View, and reported it to police.
Eventually the body was identified as 21-year old Girmai, who was known to frequent the San Jose area. During the next three decades, the investigation was frequently revisited but no significant leads were developed, police said.
On Jan. 12, 2010, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Crime Laboratory developed a DNA profile from the victim’s fingernails. Prosecutors say the resulting profile matched a convicted offender: Garcia, who had never previously been linked to Girmai.
In 2011, MVPD and the newly-created D.A.’s Cold Case Unit began to reinvestigate the case. That led to Garcia’s arrest last week.