Updated at 5:45 a.m. March 8.
A Torrance police detective who was reviewing cases involving DNA samples that had been collected from suspects in his city was able to solve an unrelated 1990 murder in which a body of a Santa Monica man was found in a trash bin in Del Rey, authorities said Thursday.
Detective Sgt. Scott Turrentine became interested in the case of 33-year- old Kevin Kemp of Hawthorne because he had been involved in an apparent sexual attack on a 28-year-old woman in the early morning hours of Sept. 30, 1990, in front of the woman's home in the 3000 block of Sonoma Avenue in Torrance, Watt said.
Watt said that during the attempted kidnapping, Kemp put a cord around the woman's neck, but she got her .22-caliber handgun from her purse and shot him.
Kemp was arrested for suspicion of attempted rape, robbery and kidnapping, but died at a hospital from his wounds. A blood sample was drawn but because he was never convicted of anything, the DNA evidence was not put into a database.
Because of the violence of the case, Turrentine had a hunch that Kemp might have been involved in other crimes, so he contacted John Bockrath, senior criminalist of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Scientific Services Bureau.
With Bockrath and the coroner's office, Kemp's DNA was placed in the national database known as CODIS and on Jan. 9, a match showed Kemp was the suspect in the 1990 strangulation of 22-year-old Luis Herrera of Santa Monica, who was killed about three weeks before Kemp died.
Herrera's body was found in a trash bin in the 4500 block of Slauson Avenue in Del Rey, Watt said. Los Angeles police detectives worked the case for about a year, but the leads ran dry, and the case was classified as a cold case.
Herrera was a transvestite prostitute who dressed as a woman, the Daily Breeze reported.
"We believe [Kemp] thought he was with a female prostitute and, in the middle of a sex act, he strangles him," Los Angeles police Detective Brian McCartin told the Daily Breeze.
Kemp might have sexually assaulted other women and his DNA may eventually link him to additional crimes, McCartin said.
Torrance detectives are investigating other older rape and assault or murder cases that Kemp might have been involved in.
"Submitting DNA samples from known suspects into the Known Suspect Index is a great tool and we wish more investigators would use this resource," said Steve Renteria, CODIS administrator for the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.
There are more than 1,000 known suspects in the California Known Suspect Index.
Correction: Due to a reporting error by CNS, an earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the location where Luis Herrera's body was found as Venice, not Del Rey.