Six years after the murder of Linda Yalem, a University at Buffalo student killed while running on the Ellicott Creek Bike Path, Altemio C. Sanchez ran the race held in her memory.
Sanchez, arrested this week after DNA evidence identified him as the Bike Path Killer, wore race number 679 with the name of the Linda Yalem Memorial Run printed on it during that Sept. 29, 1996, race.
Amherst police always felt that Yalem's killer would someday run the race and were there that day, looking at the various men who were entered, videotaping the finish, hoping they would see someone who would fit the composite drawing they had refined over the years.
In the end, it was a clue from a cold case and DNA evidence that led to Monday's arrest of Sanchez, 48, and tied him not only to Yalem's killing, but to two other killings and at least five sexual attacks in the last 26 years.
Records show that Sanchez made his only appearance at the Yalem run in 1996, registering under his own name.
Dennis R. Black, UB's vice president of student affairs, put the race together just weeks after Yalem's death along with fellow administrators Emily Ward and Nan Harvey.
When Black heard the news of Sanchez's arrest, he said, he felt a shudder go through him.
The bigger shock came Tuesday, when he was able to check the race registrations.
There in the list of the 1996 entries was the name: Altemio Sanchez, 38, of Cheektowaga.
"It was both sickening and frightening," Black said when he found Sanchez's name on the list.
Sanchez was one of 1,548 people who signed up for the race. A lone bagpiper played "Amazing Grace" and led runners on a short walk from UB's Alumni Arena to the starting line.
Before the gun went off to start the 5-kilometer race on that cool, crisp morning, race officials called for a moment of silence.
Not a sound was heard as runners honored the memory of Linda Yalem, 22, who was killed six years earlier on that same day while training for the New York City Marathon.
If the Gordon Highlander bagpiper and silent moment didn't get the message across, race officials, as they do each year, reinforced the reason behind the race. They handed out lighted key rings to Sanchez and each of the other runners that morning to remind them to be safe while running.
Don Mitchell, who for years did the computer scoring for the race through his Runtime Services, also checked his race database for Sanchez's name Tuesday.
Sanchez ran only three races, all in 1996, in the more than 20 years that Mitchell scored most of the area's major races, his search found.
At the time of the Yalem run in 1996, the homicidal Bike Path Rapist had not attacked anyone since two years before and would not strike again until the 2006 death of Joan Diver.
Mitchell's records show that Sanchez was no more than a recreational runner, and a bit of plodder at that.
His time was 29 minutes, 43 seconds for the 3.1-mile Yalem run, 635th out of 760 men.
Those who ran the race that year, including Sanchez, received a greeting from race officials when they entered:
"We hope that the University and Western New York running community will again join together to remind one another that we must take steps to ensure our safety and not allow our lives to be controlled by fear."