OREM — Police say the monthslong search for a man who raped an 11-year-old Orem girl in February is likely over after DNA evidence matched with a convicted felon.
Jayson Q. Johnson, 26, of Orem, was booked into the Utah County Jail Friday for investigation of rape of a child, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and kidnapping of a child. He lives just two blocks from where the attack occurred.
It's an arrest that brought some much-needed emotional relief to an 11-year-old girl and her family.
"Obviously, having such a violent personal encounter, she was very happy to know that he was in custody," Orem Police Sgt. Matt Pedersen said. "The family's very excited that an arrest was made and hopefully can move forward with a little more confidence now."
On the morning of Feb. 5, the girl was walking to Cherry Hill Elementary, 250 E. 600 South, when a man grabbed her by her backpack as she was entering through a gate onto the school grounds. The man told her she couldn't enter there and that he would show her where to go and pushed her down the street, according to police.
The man led the girl behind a garbage bin at a church and sexually assaulted her, then put her inside the Dumpster and raped her, police said. The attacker left her inside the bin and told her not to tell anyone.
One he was gone, the girl ran to the school and told teachers what had happened. Police were called, and the girl offered a detailed description of the man. She also underwent a forensic physical exam, and officials were able to collect evidence to submit to the Utah State Crime Lab for DNA testing.
Police later recovered "a very distinct shoe pattern" in the fresh snow at the scene, Pedersen said.
Detectives began following up on leads in the area and knocking on doors, one of which was Johnson's. Johnson, who had previously been convicted of burglary and theft, wasn't initially suspected as he had no record of sexual offenses, Pedersen said.
Johnson "wasn't on our radar as far as the investigation went," he said.
The Utah State Crime Lab processed the DNA sample in the sexual assault kit for the case and produced "an exact match" with a person whose DNA was already in the database for a felony conviction, according to Pedersen. Crime lab technicians double-checked the match and contacted Orem police.
A search warrant was served on Johnson, and police said they recovered several items of clothing that matched the suspect's description — including a shoe that matched the footprint.
Officers arrested and interviewed Johnson, who denied involvement in February's incident and provided alibis. A girlfriend living with Johnson was also interviewed, and Johnson's alibis were found to be false, Pedersen said.
A search of court records indicates Johnson has pleaded guilty to several charges since 2008, including attempted criminal trespassing, theft, attempted burglary, forgery, burglary and theft by deception.
Though the forensic process can take months or years to complete, victims can still feel closure when it leads to an eventual arrest, Pedersen said.
"This DNA process obviously isn't like on TV where it pops up on your phone an hour later and you go make the arrest," the sergeant said. "We're very ecstatic for the community and for this young girl that can now start to move forward knowing her assailant is in custody and will likely stay there."