A Coachella Valley man is accused of grabbing women on Orange County running trails in order to sexually assault them. Law enforcement officers believe there may be other victims and are setting up a hotline to gather more information.
The Orange County District Attorneys' office reports that "since January 2020, at least three women have been snatched off running trails in an Aliso Viejo park and choked unconscious in an attempt to sexually assault the women. One of the women was raped."
The cases date back to January of 2020. A task force has been working to find the suspect and Monday, the District Attorney's office announced an arrest.
Prosecutors now say Robert Daniel Yucas, 51, of Cathedral City, is the man they've been searching for. Yucas is now in custody in Anchorage, Alaska. Prosecutors also connected Yucas to an alleged crime in San Diego county. District Attorney Todd Spitzer says DNA evidence is providing a link between several cases.
Investigators say Yucas travels for work as a commercial cargo pilot. Because of his ability to travel, they are concerned there may be "many other victims."
A tip line has been established: 714-647-7419
"He moved from Aliso Viejo to Cathedral City," DA Spitzer said. News Channel 3 checked with the Riverside County District Attorney's office. A spokesperson confirmed, "I can tell you that there are no active criminal cases in Riverside County on anyone with that name."
News Channel 3 interviewed Yucas ahead of the September 11th anniversary. An image from that interview was used in the news conference. "That is the best picture we have of him," of what he looks like presently, said the District Attorney.
"He did that interview voluntarily and while people were looking for him," DA Spitzer said.
“Thank you to the Orange County Crime Lab, Orange County Crime Stoppers, the San Diego Police Department and the Anchorage International Airport Police and Fire Department for their assistance in identifying and making this arrest. We all want to live in a neighborhood where we feel safe to do something as simple to take a walk. With this arrest, we have regained a small piece of that sense of safety.” said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes in a news release.
“Sexual predators do not stop until we stop them,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “An entire community lived in fear that they would be the next victims to be grabbed off a trail, choked unconscious, and raped. The bravery of an anonymous tipster to come forward with information about this predator led to his capture and likely prevented additional women from being sexually assaulted. These women endured unimaginable horror at the hands of a stranger who hunted them like prey. Now that this sexual predator is behind bars, my job is to make sure he is held accountable for these heinous crimes to the fullest extent of the law. The way we prevent him from harming any more women is to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life.”
Watch the Orange County District Attorney explain the new developments below.
Timeline of reported assaults
Authorities said Robert Daniel Yucas, an Army veteran and cargo pilot, is suspected of sexually assaulting a woman last month near Pacific Park Drive and Alicia Parkway, and two other women in January and April of last year in roughly the same area. Here is a timeline, according to the Orange County District Attorney's Office.
- On January 20, 2020, a 24-year-old woman was at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo to skateboard when a man later identified as Yucas asked her for directions. While the woman pulled out her phone, Yucas is accused of grabbing the woman in a chokehold and dragging her into the bushes next to the walking path. The woman lost consciousness and woke to find she had been raped.
- On April 2, 2020, a 32-year-old woman was running in Woodfield Park when a man later identified as Yucas grabbed her from behind and put her in a chokehold. Yucas is accused of dragging the woman into the bushes in an attempt to rape her, but the woman managed to fight him off.
- On August 28, 2021, a 41-year-old woman was in Woodfield Park when a man grabbed her and put her in a chokehold. The woman lost consciousness and woke up in the bushes next to a walking path with her pants pulled down.
- An anonymous tip to OC Crime Stoppers led investigators to the September 4, 2021 incident in San Diego that ultimately led to the DNA hit that matched the suspect in that attack to the suspect in the Orange County attacks. The collaboration between law enforcement, including the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and the San Diego, Anchorage, and Cathedral City Police Departments, made this arrest possible.
- On September 20, prosecutors name Yucas as the man responsible. Authorities are asking for anyone with additional information related to Yucas or any additional victims to call the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Assault Unit at 714-647-7419. Yucas lived in Aliso Viejo prior to moving to Cathedral City in Riverside County and he is known to spend time in San Diego County.
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