Detective: DNA links suspect to alleged rape

An Altoona man accused of raping an 11-year-old girl in a vacant house will face trial.

Altoona police Detective Cpl. Drew Emswiler testified Wednesday that the DNA of 19-year-old Elijah C. Funtal-Noel matches that of DNA found by using a sexual assault kit after the girl reported the assault to police in September 2018.

Funtal-Noel, who is being held in Blair County Prison in lieu of $150,000 cash bail on the sexual assault charges and another $100,000 cash bail for charges filed when he allegedly ran from police May 2, is accused of telling the girl’s parents he was 14 when he met them and then secreting her away to an abandoned house on Sept. 12, where he then sexually assaulted her several times during the night.

Funtal-Noel’s attorney, Assis­tant Public Defender John Siford, tried to chip away at the case through his questioning of Emswiler, asking the detective if police knew why the girl went alone with Funtal-Noel to the abandoned house and whether she sneaked out of her own house.

Those questions brought objections from Assistant District Attorney Nichole Smith.

“She’s an 11-year-old child,” Smith told the court. “Any consent argument is irrelevant for today’s purposes and for trial.”

Magisterial District Judge Daniel DeAntonio sustained most of Smith’s objections, but did allow Siford to explore certain aspects of the case in his questioning while Siford often withdrew his questions and moved on.

Emswiler testified that Funtal-Noel texted the girl while she and her parents talked to police and asked her to meet him at the Altoona Area Public Library. It was there that police found Funtal-Noel, prompting Siford to try to find out whether police could tie Funtal-Noel to the text messages and suggested there might have been someone else at the library texting the girl.

Siford also questioned Emswiler on who first used the word rape to described what happened. Emswiler told the court he first heard the girl use the term, but couldn’t say how she described it in her initial contact with Altoona police.

In the end, Siford offered no argument and deferred to the judge’s discretion on whether there was enough evidence to send the case to Blair County Court.

Judge DeAntonio said he found police have enough evidence to send the case to trial and pointed out that Funtal-Noel is scheduled to appear again on May 22 for a hearing on escape and related charges stemming from the 19-year-old’s arrest on May 2.

Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.

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