ESCONDIDO, Calif. -- A man suspected of breaking into several North County homes and sexually assaulting young girls as they slept in 2013 is in custody, police revealed Wednesday.
Gilbert Andrew Chavarria, 27, was arrested Monday on suspicion of three counts of residential burglary with sexual assault and five counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14, according to Escondido police Chief Craig Carter.
Most of the victims were in their pre-teens, but the youngest child was 5 years old.
The alleged crimes occurred in the summer of 2013 and were jointly investigated by Escondido police and the San Diego County Sheriff's Department because they occurred in both Escondido and neighboring San Marcos.
Investigators said Chavarria entered the homes by cutting through screens.
"When this crime series were occurring it was July 2013. It was very hot, a heat wave. It’s very common for people to leave their windows open with fans going," said Detective Jason Rouse, San Diego Sheriff's Department.
Detectives said Chavarria would then molest the children.
"It was so brazen, in some cases, this suspect was breaking in and assaulting children sleeping literally feet from their parents," said Det. Rouse. "There were chunks of clothing swatches of clothing removed from the victims pajamas."
Chief Carter described one of the cases where Chavarria assaulted two sisters sleeping right next to their mother. The family had stayed in the same room, because they had heard about the Creeper and felt they would be more protected together.
"They were together with their feet at the window, in case something like that ever happened to them," said Chief Charter. "Sadly, it wasn’t the case. The Creeper was able to get in there and molest the children."
Sheriff Bill Gore said DNA collected from the crime scenes led to the arrest of Chavarria, who works in the automotive field and lives in Escondido.
"We got some DNA profiles off clothing and then we sent those up to the state," said Shelly Webster, DNA Analyst.
The first time did not produce results. Webster said they asked the Department to conduct a familal search.
"So they compared that to their database to see if there were any relatives of the DNA off the clothing," said Webster.
It wasn't until 19 months later, the forensics team received word of a match.
"We got notified that Wednesday that there was a match and they gave us a name of Gilbert Chavarria and we followed up with that information.
Police said from undercover surveillance, they had been able to obtain a piece of trash with Chavarria's DNA. It was a direct match with DNA collected from clothing at the crime scene.
Chavarria was arrested shortly after. He is being held at the Vista Detention Facility on a $4.5 million bail. He is set to be arraigned on Thursday.