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Sexual Attack Puts Ojai Residents on Edge : Crime: Assault on 89-year-old woman in retirement neighborhood brings to memory the fear that gripped the community a year ago.

July 15, 1995|PAUL ELIAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Residents in Ojai had thought this sort of thing was behind them.

But the violent sexual assault of an 89-year-old woman Thursday has again put this community--terrorized by the so-called Ojai Rapist a year ago--on edge.

"This is just devastating," Ojai Mayor Nina Shelley said. "The thought of an 89-year-old woman being tied up and [sexually assaulted] is beyond belief. This is just a vicious, vicious crime."

Police are releasing little information about the attack, which occurred early Thursday.

Ventura County Sheriff's Lt. Bruce Hansen said the woman lives alone and was awakened by her assailant, who tied her up before assaulting her. She was left bound more than 12 hours until a neighbor found her about 4:40 p.m. Hansen would not say if the woman had been raped. The woman was still hospitalized Friday.

"She suffered significant injuries," Hansen said. "But her condition is improving."

The Sheriff's Department did not release news of the assault until Friday morning, further upsetting some of the victim's neighbors in the retirement community of Taormina.

"We can't find out anything," said Ruth Mathews, president of the retirement corporation that manages the community. "We are all in a state of shock and we don't know what to do."

Mathews said she plans to schedule a neighborhood meeting once she gets some word from the Sheriff's Department.

Hansen advised Ojai residents to lock their homes before going to bed each night.

"Entry to the residence at this point appears to have been non-forced," Hansen said.

The incident revives fears that gripped Ojai during last year's series of assaults, which were put to rest in May when Kevin Richard Malone pleaded guilty to eight felony charges. Malone entered through unlocked doors and preyed upon elderly woman. One of his victims lived in the Taormina neighborhood.

Malone faces 85 years in prison when he is sentenced Aug. 17.

"I think that the women of this community had begun to relax a little after the last episode," Shelley said. "And now this."

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