Recent rape arrest after 13 years offers hope for other survivors

A man who fled to Mexico more than a decade ago as a way to avoid justice is back in Tuscaloosa, offering hope for sexual assault survivors around West Alabama.

If the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit can find this man in another country after 13 years on the run, other suspects can be found and brought to justice, too.

“The Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit and law enforcement in Tuscaloosa County will reach anywhere in the world to get you,” said VCU Commander Capt. Jack Kennedy.

Alexander Velasquez-Hernandez, now 37, is accused of at least two sexual assaults and several other attempted sexual assaults between 2008 and 2009 near the University of Alabama campus.

On Tuesday he was back in Tuscaloosa after extradition from Mexico. He remains in the Tuscaloosa County Jail on no bond because he is considered a flight risk.

After investigators matched Velasquz-Hernandez’s DNA to a sample from an assault victim, he became the primary suspect in two rape cases.

Investigators said he posed as an apartment maintenance worker to gain entry to apartments, and once he confirmed his targets were alone, he sexually assaulted them.

But as soon as investigators had their man, he was gone.

“The issue here was that he fled the United States, and it became difficult for us to lay our hands on him or develop his whereabouts,” Kennedy said.

That is, until recently. The Mexican Federal Police took him into custody and handed him over to US Marshals, who brought him back to Tuscaloosa.

Even though the crimes were committed more than a decade ago, there’s no statute of limitations for the crimes in which he’s accused.

“Sexual offenses and violent crimes in the state of Alabama have no statute of limitations for this exact reason,” Kennedy said.

Tuscaloosa SAFE Center is an agency designed to meet the emotional, medical and forensic needs of sexual assault survivors.

Outreach Coordinator Tyler Fowler said she hopes cases like this can provide hope for victims and reinforce the importance of reporting.

“I would recommend that if you are sexually assaulted, you come to our center as soon as possible,” Fowler said. “That way we can collect evidence and preserve as much as possible so we can seek the best possible outcome and get you the justice you deserve.”

Residents who live in the location of the attacks today may be unaware of what happened more than a decade ago, but VCU and other area law enforcement haven’t forgotten.

“Regardless of whether he is in America or another country, he was a danger to the public and women in general,” Kennedy said. “I am glad he’s off the streets.”

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