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A rape kit taken after a 2006 sexual assault wasn’t processed at the Nebraska State Patrol crime lab until earlier this year, and now it has connected a Lincoln case to a man who has been deported from the United States twice and was accused in a 2007 rape.

The kit was taken after a woman told Lincoln police she was walking home from a downtown bar when a man held a knife to her throat and raped her twice.

The semen and other evidence collected at the hospital was sent to the patrol's lab but later returned without being processed in early 2007, Lincoln Police Officer Katie Flood said Wednesday.

Apparently, she said, it was overlooked during the initial investigation.

Lab records show that Lincoln police asked that the kit be returned without processing, patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said.

"The fact it was not processed is highly unusual, but this illustrates why we periodically review unsolved and cold cases," Flood said.

A sergeant reviewing unsolved sex assault investigations this summer came across the case and saw it could possibly hold evidence that wasn't previously analyzed, Flood said.

"The sex assault kit, obtained from the victim following the assault, was sent to the state lab in (April) 2015 to be examined for potential male DNA to help identify a suspect," she said.

Within two months, patrol investigators told police they found a match between the DNA collected in 2006 and 33-year-old Jaime Chavez Villasenor, according to court documents. In November, a police investigator filed a warrant to get a cheek swab from Villasenor, who is serving a four-year federal prison sentence for re-entering the U.S. illegally and set to be released in March.

He hasn't been arrested in the 2006 Lincoln sexual assault, but the case has been reopened, Flood said.

In January 2007, Villasenor was separately accused of sexually assaulting a cab driver at knifepoint. The charges were dismissed by prosecutors, documents say.

In a newspaper article at the time, they said the investigation cast doubt on the cab driver's account.

When asked if prosecutors will look at that case again, County Attorney Joe Kelly had no immediate comment.

Villasenor was deported in September 2006 after a conviction for second-degree burglary and assault with a deadly weapon two years earlier in Los Angeles County, California, according to federal court documents.

In January 2007, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Omaha got notice Villasenor was in jail in Lancaster County on the first-degree sexual assault charge that was later dropped. He told authorities he had gotten back into the country a year earlier and was put into the custody of U.S. Marshals.

In August 2007, Villasenor was sentenced to 46 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was deported a second time on July 21, 2010, and came back in 2012, when he was arrested in Texas, documents say.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7395 or nmanna@journalstar.com. On Twitter @LJSNicholeManna.

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