DNA collected at the house where a 19-year-old Reno woman disappeared from more than a week ago matches DNA gathered by investigators after the sexual assault of another college student just blocks away in December.
Reno police announced the break in the case of the missing student, Brianna Denison, late Sunday and today will begin a more focused search for a suspect described as a white male between the ages of 28 and 40 who may be driving a pickup truck or a sport utility vehicle.
"It is a huge leap for us in the case," police Cmdr. Ron Holladay said today on "Good Morning America." "What we need to do now is find the suspect and match up the DNA."
If you have any information on this case, please call the 24-hour tip line at 775-745-3521.
The same suspect is now wanted by police for a Dec. 16 sexual assault in which he allegedly abducted another young woman outside her house near the University of Nevada-Reno campus and sexually assaulted her.
The victim in the December assault was also the target of an attempted robbery on Jan. 19, the day before Denison vanished as she slept on a couch at a friend's off-campus house.
There is no hard evidence linking the attempted robbery with Denison's disappearance, or the December sexual assault.
For a week, Denison's family and friends have held onto hope that Denison will be returned by her abductor. Lauren Denison, the young woman's aunt, called the announcement about the DNA match "bittersweet."
"We have something we can focus on now without letting our minds run wild," she said on "GMA." "We're in a sense happy, but saddened by what we know this suspect is capable of doing."
Authorities reinterviewed the victim of the December attack after they made the match to DNA left behind in Denison's abduction. They hope that details provided by the victim, who has not been identified, might help them identify and apprehend the suspect.
The assault victim also told authorities that the truck used in her December kidnap had a dome light above the windshield, was tall enough to require a step and had a floor-mounted console with a radio featuring red and blue LED lighting. A baby's shoe was on the floor of the vehicle, as were pieces of paper with typing.
In addition to being a white male likely in his 30s, the suspect was described as about 5 feet 6 inches tall with a long face and square chin. He had a large stomach and an "innie" belly button, according to police. He had shaved the hair around his pubic area and was wearing jersey-style shirt and workout pants with an elastic band.
Nevada police are also looking again at a third incident in November in which another local college student was fondled in the same area near the university campus. No one was arrested in connection with that incident.
The link between the cases follows an announcement last week in which detectives said that there initially did not appear to be a connection between Denison's disappearance and the previous assault cases.
Authorities also confirmed this weekend that a trace of blood left behind on a pillow used by Denison came from the missing teen.
Denison's friend K.T. Hunter awoke Jan. 20 to find that the young woman, a native of Reno, Nev., and California college student, was gone. Hunter's bedroom door, which was locked, was just feet from the couch where Denison was sleeping. Neither Hunter nor her dog heard anything in the night. The door to the house, however, was not locked.