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Jury finds Hammond man guilty in Munster sexual assault, burglary

Updated: November 27, 2013 6:11AM



Lake Superior Court jurors deliberated two hours before convicting a Hammond man in a 2002 sexual assault and burglary in Munster.

Jaime Miguel Cordero, 50, was convicted of criminal deviate conduct and burglary. He faces 20 to 50 years on each count at his Nov. 22 sentencing hearing before Judge Diane Ross Boswell.

During closing arguments, trial supervisor Kathleen O’Halloran told jurors that June 3, 2002, began as a normal day for the victim. Her husband had left for work, her three children were at school and she planned to do yard work at her Margo Lane home.

“She had no inkling of the horror that awaited her,” O’Halloran said.

Defense attorney John Cantrell argued that two construction workers identified another man as the person they saw acting suspiciously in the new subdivision. Cantrell said the real attacker could easily have planted someone else’s semen at the scene because used condoms are frequently discarded in parking lots, trash containers and alleyways.

During the weeklong trial, the six-man, six-woman jury heard testimony that when the woman came inside her home, she saw a man in her peripheral vision. The man, who wore a ski mask and gloves, lunged at her like a football player, grabbed her by the leg when she tried to run upstairs, bashed her face on the floor, and duct taped her eyes, mouth and hands. He walked her into the kitchen, pulled a knife from the butcher block, held it to her neck and told her to cooperate or he would kill her. He took her into the dining room, took off her clothes and brutally assaulted her on the floor, O’Halloran said.

After the attack, the assailant roughly scrubbed the woman, front and back, in her bathtub, and threatened to kill her and her children if she told anyone.

The most damaging piece of evidence was the DNA found in semen left on the dining room carpet. The FBI DNA unit developed a DNA profile, but no suspect emerged until about 10 years after the assault when they got a “hit” in the national DNA database. Munster police arrested Cordero, whose DNA had been entered into the database after a theft conviction in Florida, obtained a DNA sample and confirmed the match to evidence in the Munster case.

Cantrell hammered away at reasonable doubt from the other man who initially was identified as a suspect in the case after he was picked out separately by two witnesses from 12-person photo lineups.

“A man knows where his semen goes,” Cantrell said. “That semen was planted there.” He argued that it makes no sense for someone to wear a ski mask and gloves, duct tape a victim’s eyes to avoid being identified, then leave DNA at the scene. In 2002, Cordero was living in St. John and driving a limousine for a living.

Deputy prosecutor Mark Watson argued that the man initially identified as a suspect was cleared through DNA and called Cantrell’s theory “outlandish.”

Cordero is charged with burglary with intent to commit rape in a 1994 break-in and sexual assault in Dyer.



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