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Suspect identified in 1975 rape and murder of elderly Mar Vista woman [Updated]

September 11, 2009 | 12:24 pm

Police have identified the man wanted in connection with a 34-year-old rape and murder case in Mar Vista as Dennis Vasquez, 50, of Los Angeles.

He was arrested Tuesday shortly before 5 p.m. at his home in the 3900 block of South Grand Avenue. Police officials said they plan to hold a news conference Monday to discuss the case. Los Angeles Police Department  records show Vasquez was arrested in April for driving with knowledge that his license was suspended or revoked.

Vasquez, who was 16 at the time of the killing, was scheduled to appear in juvenile court today after being charged with the rape and strangulation of 80-year-old Alice Lewis on Dec. 17, 1975, in her Mar Vista home.

[Updated at 6:20 p.m.: An earlier version of this post placed the scene of the crime in Venice.]

Vasquez is charged with murder with the special allegation the killing was committed during a rape and burglary. He is being held without bail.

Prosecutors are asking a juvenile court judge to make the finding that he is unfit to be tried as a juvenile, so he can be charged as an adult. Deputy Dist. Atty. Eva Stodel said a DNA match came back three weeks ago identifying the man as a suspect in Lewis' slaying.

Jane Robison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman, said the man was picked up recently on an unrelated crime, which led to a swab of his DNA being taken by authorities. The DNA was “matched” to a sample from the 1975 crime that had been placed on the state database system about seven years ago, Robison said.

No suspects were identified at the time, but evidence in the case was stored by the LAPD.

-- Richard Winton