Tossed cigarette leads to arrest in East Austin sexual assault

The attack happened the morning of Nov. 9 in an East Austin alley between 6th and 7th streets near the Texas State Cemetery.

Fifteen days later, officers with the Lone Star Fugitive Task Force arrested Steven M. Guerrero Jr.

"There is no such thing as an easy takedown. I will say we planned a lot during this arrest because we knew this individual had an extensive criminal history,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Brandon Filla.


Booking photo of Steven Guerrero. (Austin Police Department)


The night of the arrest, about a dozen task force members had three locations staked out, but a house in Pflugerville panned out.

"He was luckily out in front of this residence, for a long enough time for us to respond covertly and then we were able to effectively arrest this individual as he got into a back seat of a passenger vehicle,” said Filla.

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Guerrero is charged with aggravated sexual assault and aggravated assault. Investigators collected security video from several nearby businesses that recorded the brutal attack of a woman who was walking to a morning appointment. The videos also show how the victim was wedged between a dumpster and storage container in an attempt to hide her body. The woman has a severe head injury and remains in intensive care. A video, released by APD, was used to identify Guerrero.

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Investigators say he is walking away from the alley moments after the attack. His identification provided investigators a trail to follow. "As to where this suspect may possibly be, associates, so on, scrubbing that social media, whatever is out there in the public,” said Filla.

It was a cigarette butt that nailed down the arrest.

"The new technology, the techniques we have today are just amazing compared to what we use to have to work with,” said private investigator Wayne Vincent. He didn't work the assault case but as a retired police sergeant, he is familiar how a small item can provide a big break.

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"One of the biggest tools in investigation is creativity. We'd like to get this individual's DNA, and we are going to figure out a way to get it. So I don’t know if it’s so much opportunity, it’s just being creative and finding a way to get the job done,” said Vincent.

That opportunity happened at a Northeast Austin shopping complex where Guerrero worked. According to court records, the break came during a smoke break. Investigators say they saw him toss a cigarette butt to the ground and after he left, it was picked up and taken to a lab.

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The mathematical link from the DNA mixture between the victim and the suspect is strong. According to the lab report, the match was listed at 124 octillion times. With a DNA link made, the task force moved in.