RHINELANDER - Charged with sexual assault, burglary, and other felonies, Isaiah Moren appeared for only a few moments via video for his initial appearance in Oneida County Court Tuesday afternoon, but it was a hearing Sheriff's Capt. Terri Hook waited a long time for.
"This is one of the most significant cases that we've had of sexual assault," said Hook, who has been with the Oneida County Sheriff's Office for 23 years.
Hook and her team of investigators first learned about the case of a 76-year-old sexual assault victim from the Town of Pelican one month ago, but finding the 21-year-old suspect took time.
"It is something that we have been working diligently on," Hook said.
The criminal complaint filed Tuesday morning details how the victim's daughter found her June 10, with bruises to the face, torso, and legs, a rug burn on her hand, and bloody sheets and pillows around her bedroom. The daughter says she routinely checks on her mother every day as her caretaker. The home's patio door had been broken as well as some other objects around the house.
Newswatch 12 is not identifying the victim, her daughter, or where she lives to protect her identity.
The victim told police she went to bed the night of June 9 around 8:30 p.m. She heard a noise and knew someone was in her home. The victim told investigators the man "put his hands and body on her," then put his hands around her throat. According to the criminal complaint, the attacker repeatedly told the woman to "relax" before sexually assaulting her.
The victim's daughter brought her mother to Ascension St. Mary's Hospital where a nurse contacted the Oneida County Sheriff's Office. The victim was taken to another hospital, where a sexual assault nurse conducted specialized testing.
The elderly victim told officers she believes she's suffering from dementia and could only describe her attacker as a man with a white shirt, shorts, and pulled-back hair. The victim wasn't sure if she knew her attacker or not. Police believe Moren "targeted" the victim after discovering she lived alone.
"We could not go out to the public until we had all of these pieces put together," Hook told Newswatch 12 on Tuesday afternoon.
Police turned to DNA evidence to build their case. Over the next few days, officers took voluntary swabs from about 25 people who had been in the area at the time of the assault, including Moren, then turned over clothing and swabs from the victim's sexual assault test kit to the state crime lab.
During that process, investigators developed an initial suspect as a 49-year-old man who lives in the area. Police questioned the man, who volunteered to submit DNA for testing. On June 18, the state crime lab told investigators that man's DNA was not a match for the crime scene.
"It seems like on television you just put somebody's fingerprints in and their face comes up on the screen. That's not how it works here," Hook said of the DNA testing process. "The Wisconsin State Crime Lab went out of their way to help us. They ran things as fast as they could."
On July 3, results came back that matched Moren's DNA to the victim's rape kit and other evidence from the bedroom.
Police questioned Moren, who was in jail on a probation hold, but he denied being in the home and claimed to have been drinking at various bars and hanging out with friends the night of the assault. When detectives told Moren they had test results linking him to the crime, he asked for a lawyer and the interview ended.
"[What stands out about this case is] the brutality, the fact that this was a vulnerable person," Tri-County Council Sexual Assault Program Coordinator Braden Bayne-Allison said after attending Tuesday's court hearing.
Bayne-Allison is thankful the victim and her daughter reported the crime as soon as they did.
"A lot of survivors don't come forward in the first days, the first weeks, months, sometimes they never, they just live in silence," Bayne-Allison said.
Moren himself sat mostly in silence Tuesday afternoon as Judge Michael Bloom set bond at $500,000 cash. Moren could face up to 130 years in prison if convicted.
"There's a lot of healing that has to go on here," Hook said. "Not just for the victim but for the community and the family... This is not something that normally happens here."
The Tri-County Council says this case underlines the importance of checking in on your loved ones routinely.
Moren is due back in court on July 12 for his preliminary hearing.