Local News

Police: Fake Identification Allowed Durham Suspect To Go Free

Posted June 29, 2004

— Police say a suspect wanted in connection with a string of attacks on women had two driver's licenses with two different names, which allowed him to beat the system until now.

During a court appearance Tuesday, Fernando Asta, 32, was appointed a public defender, and his bond was set at $400,000.

Since his arrest Monday night, Asta received additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and attempted first-degree rape. The charges are in connection with the second of two attacks that occurred 20 minutes apart Saturday in Duke Forest.

Asta was first arrested Saturday following the two attacks on joggers. He was charged with a misdemeanor in connection with the first attack and released for lack of evidence regarding the second one.

Duke University police said Asta gave a fake name, Lorenzo Mondragon, Saturday, so they did not realize he was wanted by Durham police for an attempted rape in 2001.

"You have to state the facts you have at the time, and unfortunately, that's all we had and were able to get in that time frame," said Maj. Phyllis Cooper, of the Duke University Police Department.

Once they figured out the mistake, police arrested Asta again Monday. It is not the first time Asta slipped through. Durham police arrested Mondragon for drunk driving in 2003 and never made the connection.

"I'd like to say that the criminal justice system and the proceedings we have to go through sometimes doesn't always work out as we hope," Cooper said.

Chet Dobies, Durham's chief magistrate, said the system is easily duped by fake IDs.

"We have to go by the information the suspect gives us ... and there's no way of verifying that,' Dobies said.

While the criminal justice system is ultimately deceived by suspects with multiple names, one police officer told WRAL that the problem starts with the state Division of Motor Vehicles, which issues the driver's licenses.

College campuses are considered mini-towns in the eyes of the law. Colleges usually have their own police force, which has complete jurisdiction over whatever happens on campus. Typically, they handle smaller crimes and call in the SBI for help in more serious cases.

Duke police said they are continuing to investigate whether Asta was involved in a June 19 attack in Duke Forest. In that incident, a woman told police she was jogging near the intersection of N.C. 751 and U.S. 70 when a man holding a pair of kitchen shears stopped her and demanded she go into the woods with him.

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