3100 block of Casa De Campo

San Mateo: DNA helps crack horrific 1989 cold case

in Crime

DNA evidence has linked a Manteca man to the home invasion, rape and stabbing of a woman in San Mateo in 1989, the San Mateo Police Department announced Thursday.

Thirty-two years later, the victim of the horrific crime was “flooded with emotions” upon learning about an arrest in her case, police said.

John Harris, Jr. was taken into custody on Wednesday in Manteca in connection with the attack that occurred in an apartment in the 3100 block of Casa De Campo in San Mateo at about 4:15 a.m. on Feb. 4, 1989.

The suspect entered the victim’s apartment as she was asleep, grabbed a kitchen knife from her kitchen and then went to her bedroom, where he put a knife to her throat as she was in bed, police said. He then raped her, strangled her, stabbed her multiple times and slit her throat, nearly missing the external jugular vein, police said. A bandana covered the suspect’s face as he committed the vicious crimes.

“During the incident, the victim remained brave and fought back,” police said. “She was able to negotiate with the suspect and convince him to leave the apartment. The victim was then able to call police.”

An investigation ensued during which multiple people were interviewed, but investigators were unable to determine who was responsible.

As DNA technology advanced over the last three decades, evidence from the scene has been resubmitted for processing on multiple occasions. In December 2020, investigators were able to get a DNA match.

With help from multiple law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Manteca police and San Mateo County District Attorney’s Investigators, San Mateo police detectives identified Harris as the suspect.

Harris didn’t know the victim, but had lived in the same neighborhood in 1989, police said. He is also believed to have lived around the Bay Area, San Joaquin County, and Arizona since the crime was committed.

Harris was subsequently booked at San Mateo County Main Jail. Bail is currently set at $500,000.

“After speaking with the victim 32 years later, investigators saw she was flooded with emotions by the arrest,” police said. “They indicated she had not forgotten the incident and has lived with it her entire life. The victim was grateful for the persistent law enforcement effort.”

The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone who may have information about possible additional victims are encouraged to contact San Mateo Police Department’s Investigation Bureau at (650) 522-7650. Anonymous tips can be submitted here or by calling (650) 522-7676.

Photos courtesy of the San Mateo Police Department