Transgender Rapist and Murder Suspect Donzell Francis’ DNA Went Unnoticed as Rapes Continued


Ruby Ordenana.jpg
Ruby Ordenana’s nude body was found near a freeway in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill area.

It was March 16, 2007, a Friday, when someone found Ruby Ordenana’s naked body near Interstate 280 in San Francisco. The 27-year-old transgender sex worker, also known as Ruby Rodriguez, was last seen in the city’s Tenderloin area the day before she was slain. An autopsy showed that she had been strangled, and police learned that she had drug problems.

“She was fighting a lot of battles,” said Alexandra Byerly, a project coordinator for EL-LA, a non-profit group that works closely with the latino transgender community. “She was fighting drug addiction, immigration status… there were a lot of issues going on around her… we were all worried about her.  She had a lot of people backing her up…”

Although investigators recovered DNA from the crime scene, it sat in a lab for more than two years before being processed. In the meantime, another transgender prostitute from the Tenderloin was choked and raped on September 10, 2007, and then dumped in another area of town. Unlike Ordenana, she survived the attack.

Exactly two weeks later, yet another transgender sex worker was raped and pistol-whipped.  That 39-year-old victim, who was found naked after escaping from her attacker, also survived.

Then, on Tuesday, February 5, 2008, a 28-year-old transgender person was picked up in the Tenderloin. She was found naked and severely beaten, dumped in the Potrero Hill neighborhood. Although she survived the attack, she spent 15 days recovering at San Francisco General Hospital.

DNA evidence was collected from all of the victims, yet no hits were made until after the latter victim’s attack. As it turned out, the cold hit in California’s DNA database linked Donzell Francis, 41, of San Francisco, to the September 24, 2007 attack. Francis was promptly arrested, but authorities were forced to drop the charges because the victim had left the area without providing testimony.

Francis, however, was held in jail because of a parole violation, and lab techs linked his DNA in January 2009 to evidence from the other September 2007 attack.

According to court records, Francis has an extensive history for drug-related crimes, including violence. In 2001 he slashed a woman’s face with a razor, and served five years. His DNA was collected and entered into the state’s DNA database in 2004.

It was not until September 2009, however, that lab technicians matched his DNA to Ordenana’s slaying.

Although Francis has been charged with kidnapping and rape in the September 10, 2007 case and his trial is currently underway, he has not yet been charged with Ordenana’s killing despite the DNA match. According to the prosecutor’s office, they are waiting until after Francis’ current trial is over before charging him with Ordenana’s homicide.

Why had it taken so long to match Francis’ DNA to the Ordenana slaying? The crime lab, according to Assistant Police Chief Kevin Cashman — who admitted that the case “could have been handled better” — suffers from a constant backlog and the technicians give priority to the DNA samples in crimes where a suspect has already been identified.

“The protocol has since been revised,” Cashman said recently.

Although Byerly and EL-LA are “happy this predator is off the streets,” she and the group are less than pleased with how the San Francisco Police Department handled Ordenana’s homicide.

“They were offering a reward (in the Ordenana slaying),” Byerly said.  “But they had the answers, the evidence, right there in front of them… It’s a shame. Shame on the San Francisco PD.”