LEOMINSTER, Mass. — A man arrested in connection with the death of a New York City woman jogging near her mother’s Massachusetts home last summer was tied the crime scene through DNA and cellphone evidence, as well as eyewitness reports, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Angelo Colon-Ortiz, 31, of Worcester, who tried to stay out of sight during his arraignment in Leominster District Court, was held on $10 million bail after his lawyer entered not guilty pleas to charges of aggravated assault and battery and assault with attempt to rape in the Aug. 7 death of 27-year-old Vanessa Marcotte.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Travers said he requested high bail because Colon-Ortiz is expected to eventually face a murder charge in the killing of Marcotte.
Marcotte’s body was found in the woods several hours after she failed to return from a run to her mother’s home in Princeton, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) west of Boston.
A passer-by saw a man prosecutors allege was Ortiz-Colon holding a cellphone and standing next to a dark-colored SUV with its hood up at about 12:45 p.m. the day Marcotte disappeared and near where her body was discovered, Travers said. That witness saw the same vehicle just after 2 p.m.
Colon-Ortiz was a driver for FedEx, and was familiar with Princeton and surrounding towns, Travers said, although it does not appear he was working at the time Marcotte disappeared. Cellphone records indicate he was in the area.
Colon-Ortiz was also tied to Marcotte’s death through DNA left on the victim’s hands, likely during a struggle with her attacker, prosecutors said.
A state trooper recently spotted a similar SUV with a driver who matched the description of the suspect, Travers said.
The trooper made note of the license plate number and visited Colon-Ortiz’s home, talked to his wife, and left a business card, asking him to call. When Colon-Ortiz didn’t respond, the trooper returned to the home and obtained a voluntary DNA sample, Travers said.
That sample was determined to be a match with the DNA found on Marcotte. The odds of a similar match are 1 in 108.3 quadrillion, Travers said.
Edward Ryan, Colon-Ortiz’s attorney, questioned the way the DNA sample was acquired. His client is not proficient in English and may not have understood what he was being asked.
“We’re going to examine the circumstances under which he surrendered his DNA,” Ryan said.
His client, a married father, has no criminal record, he said.
Ryan reserved the right to seek lower bail at a future date.
Prosecutors have been in touch with federal immigration officials to determine Ortiz-Colon’s immigration status. He had a Puerto Rico driver’s license issued in 2014.
Ortiz-Colon moved to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico about a year ago and there is “no question” he is a U.S. citizen, Ryan said.
Members of Marcotte’s family were in court, but did not comment.