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DNA, phone data tie former Lyft driver to sexual assault of woman, Omaha police say

DNA, phone data tie former Lyft driver to sexual assault of woman, Omaha police say

DNA testing and a woman’s cellphone data led Omaha authorities to charge a former Lyft driver with first-degree sexual assault, an Omaha police detective testified Wednesday.

A Douglas County judge found enough evidence during a Wednesday preliminary hearing to order Komlanvi M. Avitso of Omaha to stand trial in district court on a charge of first-degree sexual assault of an incompetent person. The felony carries a maximum penalty of 50 years in prison.

Avitso’s attorney has said his client denies the allegations.

The detective, Melissa McDermott, said Avitso was working as a driver for Lyft, a ride-hailing company, when he picked up a 24-year-old woman just before 1:30 a.m. May 19. The woman went to police later that day and said she had been sexually assaulted sometime between 1:30 a.m. and 4 a.m.

McDermott testified that she interviewed the woman and collected DNA samples from her. McDermott also obtained a court order that required Avitso to submit to DNA testing, which she said matched the DNA found on the woman.

“I learned that (the DNA) was 3 octillion times more likely (Avitso’s) DNA than anyone else,” she said. An octillion is a 1 followed by 27 zeros.

Detectives traced the journey of the woman, who said she was heavily intoxicated, from an Old Market bar to her home. Data from her cellphone, surveillance video and Lyft ride records pieced together the ride.

The woman, McDermott said, was picked up by a Lyft driver — not the defendant — from the bar at 12:35 a.m. She was dropped off at 1:19 a.m. at a closed gas station near 96th and Q Streets. At that point, the woman was about six blocks from her home.

The woman then was picked up by a second Lyft driver, identified by records as Avitso, outside the gas station at 1:25 a.m., McDermott said. The woman’s phone data showed the vehicle driving around Omaha until stopping between 2:05 a.m. and 2:52 a.m. near 119th and P Streets.

A clerk at the Travel Inn near 107th and M Streets identified Avitso as the man who came to the front desk at 3:22 a.m., seeking a discounted room rate of $45. The clerk refused the request.

A witness reported seeing a man she later identified as Avitso coming out of the motel and getting into a dark sedan. The witness told police that a woman was in the front passenger seat of the vehicle seated “in a tilted-back position.”

The woman told detectives that she awoke the next day in her apartment and suspected she may have been sexually assaulted from “bits and pieces” that she remembered, McDermott said. She decided to make a police report.

Avitso is being held on $400,000 bail. He would have to post 10% of his bail amount, or $40,000, to be released from custody.

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