La Marque rape suspect arrested 11 years after being linked to 1999 crime through DNA

Shannon Ryan Image
Friday, July 28, 2023
Rape suspect could have been arrested 11 years ago, detective says
La Marque police make an arrest 24 years after a woman was raped and murdered. Yet, a detective said an arrest could have been made sooner.

LA MARQUE, Texas (KTRK) -- La Marque Police Department Det. Matthew Cypert called it an eye-catcher.

He refers to a box with "big bold" lettering that an investigator used to write out the charges: "aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated sexual assault."

"As an investigator, if you see those three things together, you know this is probably a major case," Cypert said.

Newly promoted to his role of cold case detective in March 2023, he read through the documents and was horrified. In 2012, there was a DNA match for a suspect in the case, but nothing had been done.

"I don't know a whole lot," he told ABC13. "I tried to speak to one of the investigators. I will say most of the investigators are not employed by our department anymore."

The DNA match came back to Preston Chenier, of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Cypert believes he was one of two men who abducted a woman in 1999 as she was walking along FM-1764. They repeatedly raped, robbed, and tortured her, Cypert said.

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"They end up throwing her out of the car somewhere on (FM) 1764, wearing nothing but socks," he explained.

A press release from the department states the case "shook the community to its core." Yet, Chenier was allowed to walk free for another 11 years after DNA linked him to the crime.

"I felt that we had an obligation to, no matter how many years have gone by, we had an obligation to the victim to at least pursue justice," Cypert said.

Late Tuesday night, more than a decade after he was identified by law enforcement, Chenier was arrested in Louisiana by U.S. Marshals and Lake Charles SWAT.

Cypert is still searching for the second man involved but hopes Chenier's arrest will generate new leads. Still, he understands mistakes were made.

This week, the La Marque City Council is voting on its budget. Among items up for consideration: a new La Marque detective position.

Cypert said it would be used to fill his old role, making his new role as full-time cold case investigator permanent. He hopes the case, even the missteps of the past, underscore its importance.

"It's just a heinous crime," he said.

Cypert said Chenier is not currently linked to any other sexual assault cases.

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