The pedophile who kidnapped a five-year-old Orange County girl near an apartment complex on the night of Sept. 14, 2008, had been drinking beer from a red can while huddled with other men.
That's the testimony of witnesses and a Tecate beer can was recovered in a flower planter near the crime scene the following morning by the victim's mother.
The victim's seven-year-old brother, who'd been playing with his sister and saw the pedophile, identified Manuel Martinez Contreras, a nearby resident, as the assailant during a line-up, but the man's DNA was not on the recovered beer can.
Contreras claims that the beer can evidence exonerates him, but police and prosecutors think otherwise.
The then-35-year-old defendant was accused of pulling down the girl's shorts and underwear to fondle her and commit oral copulation.
Beside the eyewitness identification, law enforcement officials had another major piece of evidence: DNA essentially matching the defendant's slobber was found on the minor's stomach.
After a trial a 2012 jury convicted Contreras of lewd conduct, assault and battery as well as kidnapping, and Superior Court Judge Carla Singer sent him away to prison.
But Contreras appealed, claiming the evidence showed that the unidentified man who left DNA on the Tecate can was the likely pedophile.
A three-justice panel at the California Court of Appeal based in Santa Ana considered the defendant's complaints. After noting Contreras' DNA on the victim's body, the justices ruled this month that any errors during the trial were “harmless” and declared they are confident in the verdicts.
Upshot: Contreras, now 40, will continue to serve his 15 years to life sentence.