Transient charged in grisly slaying of autistic woman

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A homeless man from the Sacramento area has been arrested and charged in the death of a high-functioning autistic woman from Rancho Cordova

The filing of murder, rape, and sodomy charges against 37-year-old Mikilo Rawls was announced Monday afternoon by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert.

“The circumstances of this murder are horrific, and our sympathies go out to Emma Roark’s family,” Schubert said in a statement emailed to reporters. “I am incredibly proud of our Crime Lab criminalists who responded to the scene and dedicated every available resource to identify a responsible party.”

Because Roark was sexually assaulted and tied up, both of which are special circumstances under California state law, Rawls could face the death penalty, though he’s unlikely to be executed in the state.

According to Rawls’ arrest warrant, unsealed Monday and obtained by The Update, investigators began eyeing him as a suspect after a man called Roark’s brother from her phone, saying he bought it from Rawls for $10 several days after her death.

The man, Cedric Sandiford, said Rawls told him not to tell anyone who he got the phone from, but Sandiford did so regardless and led authorities to an area of Rancho Cordova that Rawls frequented. Authorities picked him up there and interviewed him the next week.

Rawls told investigators that he picked Roark’s phone up off the ground after a man carrying electronics, Jake Davis, dropped it near the area of Carmichael Park and said Rawls could have it.

That story, detectives say, was determined to be false after Roark’s naked body was found hanging in a tarp near the American River Parkway. The woman’s body was found less than a mile from where Rawls claimed to have found her phone.

Detectives found Roark naked from the waist down, bound with rope, and showing signs of sexual assault. A large scab covered the middle portion of her face, a black cord was tied around her neck, and she had injuries consistent with strangulation.

The Coroner’s Office later determined her death to be asphyxia due to strangulation and said she had been dragged across the ground before her death.

After DNA analysis was done by the District Attorney’s Office, who took swabs of Roark’s private parts and mouth, sperm from Rawls was recovered. His DNA was found on her breasts, anus, neck, vagina, and the front knot of the ligature fastened around her neck.

Rawls is currently held without bail at the Sacramento County Jail and is scheduled to make his first appearance in court on Tuesday afternoon. No lawyer is currently listed on his behalf in court records.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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