Man convicted for 19-year-old Sterling Highway sexual assault and kidnapping

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 7:59 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A former Iditarod musher and Sterling resident has been convicted for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman on the Sterling Highway in January of 2001.

Carmen Perzechino, 59, has been convicted on two counts of sexual assault in the first degree and one count of kidnapping after a three-week jury trial concluded on Wednesday.

“She survived the sexual assault, she survived the two decades wait for the big break in the case, then survived the rigors of being cross examined as victim in a sexual assault case - something none of us would ever want to experience,” said Deputy Attorney General for the Criminal Division at the Department of Law, John Skidmore in a prepared statement. “And to top it all off, she testified at a time when jury trials have been suspended due to the global pandemic of COVID. She is truly a remarkable person.”

According to the Department of Law, in 2001, Perzechino offered a woman at a Soldotna bar a ride in his van but while he was driving, he started to become “verbally sexually aggressive.”

The woman told Perzechino she wanted to return to the bar but instead, Perzechino parked on the side of the highway and said he was going to have sex with her, the DOL said in a release. In testimony presented to the jury, the woman said she tried to run away from Perzechino in two separate attempts. Each time, Perzechino physically forced her back into the vehicle, the Department of Law said in a release.

The DOL statement continues saying the woman testified Perzechino sexually assaulted her and threatened to kill her. He then continued to drive her down the Sterling Highway, but she saw a Department of Transportation and Public Facilities vehicle on the highway. That’s when she jumped out of the vehicle.

The DOT employee called Alaska State Troopers, who investigated the assault but did not identify Perzechino as the suspect in the investigation in 2001.

The case was dormant for 15 years before the troopers received a grant to test previously untested sexual assault kits. A test of the woman’s sexual assault kit matched a DNA profile for Perzechino. In 2019, an investigator contacted Perzechino to ask him about his involvement in the 2001 case, but a statement from DOL said Perzechino denied having ever picked up the woman from a Soldotna bar or assaulting her.

About 10 days after he was contacted by the investigator, Perzechino bought a ticket to the Philippines, where he stayed even past the March 2019 date of his return ticket. He was arrested in the Philippines on April 4, 2019.

DOL says Perzechino could be sentenced to eight years in prison for each count of sexual assault and another five to 99 years for the kidnapping charge, in line with sentencing laws from when the crime occurred in 2001.

Perzechino moved to Alaska in 1996 and worked as a Kenai River guide, according to his Iditarod race bio. He competed in the Iditarod in 2004 but scratched at the White Mountain checkpoint.

Genetic genealogy has been used more recently by Alaska law enforcement to solve sexual assault cold cases. In August, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price declared investigators had found the man who sexually assaulted and murdered 17-year-old Jessica Baggen in 1996.

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