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Suspect captured near victim’s home admits sexual assault

May 30, 2007
Santa Paula Police Department

The suspect wanted for the May 14 sexual assault on a Santa Paula woman who was arrested Thursday told Santa Paula Police investigators that he had returned to her neighborhood because he wanted to talk with the victim, according to a SPPD spokesman.

By Peggy KellySanta Paula TimesThe suspect wanted for the May 14 sexual assault on a Santa Paula woman who was arrested Thursday told Santa Paula Police investigators that he had returned to her neighborhood because he wanted to talk with the victim, according to a SPPD spokesman.Sgt. Ish Cordero said that Heriberto Mejia, 30 of Santa Paula was arrested shortly after 7:30 a.m. when the SPPD responded to the 100 block of West Santa Barbara Street “regarding a suspicious subject who was possibly the suspect of a sexual assault that had occurred at the same location.”The victim had been sexually assaulted shortly after 7 a.m. when she was approached by the suspect while she was waiting for a ride to work. After a brief conversation he forced her into a nearby empty apartment and sexually assaulted the 36-year-old woman.On Thursday, May 27, the “victim saw the suspect outside her apartment and immediately dialed 911...she didn’t have any contact with him at all,” said Sgt. Cordero.SPPD Officer John Coffelt responded to the scene with his K-9 partner Jack as Mejia was attempting to flee the area.“...once he saw Jack he gave up,” noted Sgt. Cordero.Officers found that Mejia had two screwdrivers and a gardening tool in his possession: “The screwdrivers are similar to the ones described by the victim at the time of the sexual assault,” but “at this time it is unknown if any of these items were used during the initial” attack.Officers’ found Mejia’s faded silver compact car parked adjacent to the victim’s residence...the keys were in the ignition and the car was parked “in such a way to believe he was ready to make a quick getaway.”After the arrest SPPD Investigators obtained search warrants for Mejia’s vehicle and his 100 block of South 7th Street residence where Mejia lived with his wife and others.
Sgt. Cordero said that the SPPD is “looking for evidence, items which dealt with the crime and to see if there is any possibility of other victims.”Mejia has no prior criminal record “and he admitted to the crime” during an interview conducted at the Santa Paula Police Station.“The excuse that he gave for being there was that he wanted to talk to her,” noted Sgt. Cordero. “You can only wonder what his intentions were, we don’t know what’s in these kind of criminal minds.”When asked about the victim Sgt. Cordero said that she is “doing okay...she was shaken up quite a bit.”Mejia, who was arrested on multiple counts of sexual assault including rape and booked into Ventura County Jail, will probably be arraigned Tuesday: “We’ll get a preliminary hearing date and see what happens.”The investigation is continuing noted Sgt. Cordero.“We have to close out all possibilities of other victims and talk to witnesses but at this point we have the evidence to book him and start the process for his court dates.”The widely circulated sketch and description of the suspect and his vehicle “was pretty close,” noted Sgt. Cordero, who complimented those who contacted the police“We received quite a few calls regarding the sketch including one from a little girl who was in a store and thought she saw the suspect...everybody was looking out for him which was good.”The SPPD “worked hard on this investigation and with the help of the victim, witnesses and investigators we were able to put this case together quickly and apprehend the suspect. That’s what it takes: community awareness and crime prevention to make a safe community.”