A judge's gavel. Photo via Pixabay.
A judge’s gavel. Photo via Pixabay.

An El Monte man who was allegedly linked by DNA testing to the rape and killing of a woman at an assisted living center in Covina more than two decades ago pleaded not guilty Thursday to a capital murder charge.

David Adolph Bernal, now 46, allegedly entered the assisted living facility in the 800 block of West San Bernardino Road on Jan. 19, 1996, and strangled Mary Lindgren. The 67-year-old victim — who lived alone in a first- floor room at the Covina Villa Retirement Home, was also raped and severely beaten, authorities said.

Investigators conducted extensive interviews with the facility’s staff members, residents and their families, outside vendors, contractors, delivery personnel and neighbors living near the center — all of whom were excluded as potential suspects, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

Several items of evidence, including DNA, were also collected and held for forensic analysis. The suspect’s DNA profile was developed, but it did not match any profiles within the state or federal criminal justice DNA databases, according to the sheriff’s department.

Homicide investigators assigned to the sheriff’s Unsolved Unit subsequently collaborated with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office in 2019 to submit the unidentified DNA profile to the California Department of Justice, which notified investigators of their results.

Homicide investigators, along with sheriff’s crime lab personnel, subsequently identified Bernal, whose “DNA was a match collected (with DNA) collected from the body of Mary Lindgren,” according to the sheriff’s department.

Bernal was arrested Aug. 6 and has remained jailed without bail since then.

The murder charge includes the special circumstance allegations of murder during the commission of a rape, sodomy and burglary.

Prosecutors will announce later whether they intend to seek the death penalty against Bernal.

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