Young Kavila murder: Des Plaines police say DNA led to arrest after 21-year manhunt

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- Charges were announced Thursday in a suburban cold case dating back to 1999. After a 21-year man hunt, it was DNA swab that finally led to the break in the case.

Luis Rodriguez-Mena was arrested more than 20 years after police say he murdered Young Kavila inside of her Des Plaines apartment.

Retired Des Plaines Detective Randy Aikin was one of the first on scene that night.

"When I was there that evening, I never would have believed that this would have taken 21 years to resolve," Aikin said.

Police say Kavila, a 30-year-old flight attendant, was brutally murdered on November 30, 1999. Kavila had dozens of stab wounds. Her roommate found her body.

"There was a lot of blood evidence visible there, there was clearly signs that a struggle," he recalled.

Investigators say Mena, who lived in a nearby apartment, attacked Kavila then fled to Mexico the next day. Mena was on the run for 21 years. Investigators say he moved locations each time police got close.

The 40-year-old man was arrested in Mexico in June then fought extradition for months.

"There was enough DNA, there was enough evidence there that we could ultimately tie it to somebody at some point in time," Aikin said. "It is just that the circumstances, with him fleeing out of the country, that it took as long as it did."

The break in the case came more than 10 years ago. A tip from a family member led police to Mena's son in Illinois. They took a DNA swab, then compared the child's DNA to evidence found at the crime scene.

"This DNA profile was compared through the Illinois State Police forensics laboratory to blood evidence at the scene and came up as a 99.98% match," said Des Plaines Police Chief William Kushner.

Aikin is now retired, but Kavila's case was always top of mind.

"It closes the circle for me," Aikin said. "I have been involved in a lot of investigations over the years. This one stood out."

Rodriguez-Mena is being held without bond. He's due back in court later this month.
Copyright © 2021 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.