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Escapee Arrested in 2nd Rape : Crime: Newly convicted prisoner who fled West L.A. courthouse attacked a woman during the three hours before his recapture, police say.

September 16, 1995|SUSAN STEINBERG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A convicted burglar and rapist escaped from a West Los Angeles courthouse Friday, and allegedly raped a woman before he was captured by police about three hours later.

Phil Juan Barba, 24, had just been sentenced to 29 years in prison when he managed to get out of his handcuffs and escape from a lockup area at 11:40 a.m., said Los Angeles County sheriff's Deputy Benita Nichol.

The alleged assault Friday was disturbingly similar to the crime for which Barba had been sentenced. In that case, he broke into a woman's home and raped her while being pursued by police on Valentine's Day.

On Friday, Barba was captured by Los Angeles police at 2:35 p.m. after a high-speed chase that ended when he crashed the car he stole from the woman he allegedly assaulted. About 60 police officers and sheriff's deputies had been searching the West Los Angeles area for the escapee, police said.

"After we received information that last time he [eluded police] he raped a woman, we were desperate to find him," said Police Lt. Frank Spangler.

Barba escaped from deputies while in the holding cell at West Los Angeles Municipal Court on Purdue Avenue. Sheriff's deputies are in charge of courthouse and prisoner security.

Nichol said Barba may have had a key to unlock his handcuffs. He climbed over a seven-foot high security gate that opened onto a stairwell and fled out an unlocked exterior door, she said. The gap above gate was seven inches high, she said.

Nichol said that a handcuff key was found in Barba's rectum after he was captured.

After Barba fled the courthouse, he allegedly broke into a woman's apartment in the 1700 block of Colby Drive in West Los Angeles and raped and assaulted her.

Police had been going door-to-door in the area, searching for Barba. The suspect allegedly made some calls to friends to brag about his escape.

As police closed in, Barba stole the victim's car and fled. He drove through the barricades erected by police, with police in pursuit, Spangler said. The chase ended when Barba crashed into a building at Nebraska Avenue and Bundy Drive.

Spangler said Barba emerged yelling, "You'll never take me alive!" Police shot him once with a bean bag and he was taken into custody.

Police are investigating the rape, assault and auto theft charges, and sheriff's deputies are conducting an investigation into Barba's courthouse escape.

As to Barba getting out of his handcuffs, Spangler said, "That won't happen again. We're watching him."

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