Pierce County prosecutors have charged a man with a decade-old homicide and two unrelated rapes that had grown cold until DNA recently linked the three crimes.
Miguel Angel Urbano-Vazquez, 35, faces one count of aggravated murder, one count of first-degree rape and one count of second-degree rape. A warrant has been issued for his arrest but authorities believe he has fled the country.
The Sheriff’s Department put out a plea on the homicide case in April, asking the public for new clues in the slaying of 39-year-old Sharon Y. Van Gilder. Her body was found shortly after midnight March 21, 2002, along the road in the 15600 block of 74th Avenue East in Spanaway.
The Tacoma woman had been strangled.
She was last seen leaving the El Gallo de Oro tavern the night before in the company of two unidentified men. Authorities now believe Urbano-Vazquez was one of those men.
The case recently got a closer look by a cold case unit and a detective realized Urbano-Vazquez had been a person of interest in Van Gilder’s death and two rapes that occurred about the same time.
According to charging papers:
Tacoma police responded June 24, 2002, to a garage in the 3700 block of South Yakima Avenue after a woman reported she had been raped.
She said she had accepted a ride from a man named Angel, who drove her to the garage, hit her on the head with a wrench and sexually assaulted her. He told the woman he owned her and threatened her before driving away.
Officers later discovered the same garage was the location where a second woman was raped Aug. 18, 2002. She told police she accepted a ride from three men after leaving a restaurant. After being attacked, she forced open a door and escaped down an alley.
She later identified Urbano-Vazquez as the “mean one” who participated in the assault. A witness near the scene reported seeing a car driven by Urbano-Vazquez with two other men and a woman enter the garage, which the owner told police Urbano-Vazquez had access to.
When detectives interviewed him in 2003 about the first rape, “Urbano-Vazquez told detectives he had heard that someone had been killed” in the garage.
That was the link detectives needed.
The cold case squad submitted DNA evidence from all three crimes for analysis. In late April, the results came back – male DNA collected from Van Gilder and both rape victims were the same.