By Christina Bravo 

More than three decades after a 26-year-old woman was found strangled to death on the embankment of a Carlsbad roadway, the man believed to be responsible for her slaying has been arrested, the Carlsbad Police Department announced Friday.

James Charles Kingery, 54 of Poway, was arrested this week on a charge of murder in connection with Julia Hernandez-Santiago’s death on Oct. 10, 1987, thanks in part to advancements in DNA technology, CPD said.

Hernandez-Santiago was 26 years old when her body was found on an ivy-covered embankment along Alga Road, near what is now the Omni La Costa Resort golf course.

Law enforcement suspected Hernandez-Santiago was sexually assaulted before she was killed by what the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled was strangulation.

But, despite having several pieces of key evidence, Carlsbad police could not pinpoint a suspect. In the next 33 years following Hernandez-Santiago’s death, investigators continued to follow new leads. Even still, they could not pinpoint a suspect.

A break in the case came in March 2020, when Kingery was arrested in Poway for drug and weapon violations. Because of the severity of the charges, Kingery submitted a DNA sample.

Two months later, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Crime Lab got a hit: Kingery’s DNA matched DNA samples found at the 1987 crime scene.

The match gave new life to the Carlsbad Police Department’s investigation into Julia Hernandez-Santiago’s killing. With the new evidence at their disposal, detectives cross-checked their case information and presented it to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

On Wednesday, Kingery was booked into San Diego Central Jail on one charge of murder with no bail option. He is scheduled to be arraigned on July 31, 2020.

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