Sheriff’s officials arrested an Isla Vista man on Friday in connection with a pair of 2002 rapes that occurred over 200 miles apart — one on a Goleta beach and the other on the slopes of Mammoth Lakes.
Five years after the alleged rapes occurred, the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. and the Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. arrested 39 year-old Steven Neff at his home on the 700 block of Camino Pescadero thanks to newly-obtained DNA evidence, said Sgt. Erik Raney, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Dept. Neff is being held in Santa Barbara County Jail with bail set at $500,000.
Raney said the rapes in Mammoth and Goleta were very similar — both victims were injected with the date rape drug Ketamine before they were assaulted – but at the time the assaults occurred detectives could not obtain the DNA evidence necessary for a conviction.
“After all leads were exhausted, the two sexual assault cases went cold,” Raney said.
Mammoth police detectives had submitted potential DNA evidence from a female skier who was sexually assaulted on the slopes in January 2002, but the National DNA database found no matches. A few months later in April 2002, a female jogger on Haskell’s Beach in Goleta was also assaulted with Ketamine, but the Santa Barbara Sheriff Dept. had no leads, Raney said.
Then, last December the National DNA database informed Mammoth police detectives that the DNA found on the assaulted skier matched I.V. resident Neff’s DNA. The National database obtained Neff’s DNA after Santa Barbara Sheriff’s detectives arrested him for felony burglary, forgery and identity theft in 2005, Raney said.
“The Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. notified the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Dept. of this break in the case,” Raney said. “Sheriff’s detectives re-submitted the evidence collected in 2002, and DNA evidence was recovered. That DNA also matched to Steven Neff.”
After the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s office issued a warrant, detectives from the two law enforcement agencies arrested Neff, Raney said.