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Veteran CHP Sergeant Accused of Raping Woman Near Barstow

December 12, 1995|TOM GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

RIVERSIDE — A 27-year veteran of the California Highway Patrol has been arrested for allegedly raping a Barstow woman after offering her a ride home, authorities announced Monday.

CHP Sgt. James W. Pitsor, 49, who lives in Barstow, was arrested Sunday by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department after investigators served search warrants on his home and patrol car, said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Toni Broten.

The unidentified victim told investigators that when she left a Barstow bar about 2 a.m. Saturday, Pitsor offered her a ride home. She said he instead drove her in his CHP vehicle along California 58 to a remote desert region 20 miles west of town, raped her and then drove her back to Barstow, Broten said.

The woman filed her complaint with the Sheriff's Department Saturday afternoon, and investigators questioned Pitsor at the sheriff's station in Barstow on Sunday after he completed his Saturday night graveyard shift, Broten said.

"Based on his statements and the evidence we found, we felt we had enough to arrest him on suspicion of rape and battery under color of authority," she said.

He was released later Sunday on $25,000 bail, she said.

Pitsor was working as a supervisor on the graveyard shift. Because he was in uniform, including wearing his name tag, the victim was able to identify him, Broten said.

Before being assigned to Barstow about 15 years ago, Pitsor--who has been suspended from duty--worked out of the CHP's Santa Fe Springs station, said CHP spokesman Willie Hailey in Barstow.

He said the department knew of no other complaints against Pitsor, "but any time you have a case of this nature, people start calling in with allegations. Some may be true, some may not be true."

The CHP's Barstow station has not gone without notoriety in the past.

Officer George M. Gwaltney was sentenced to 90 years in federal prison for the 1982 kidnap, rape and murder of 23-year-old Robin Bishop in the Mojave Desert while she was driving from Las Vegas to her home in Van Nuys along Interstate 15. Prosecutors said Gwaltney pulled the woman over for speeding, then handcuffed her, raped her and shot her to death.

Late last month, Jim Carl Burchett, who had retired in 1983 as captain of the CHP's Barstow station, pleaded not guilty to federal charges of distributing, possessing and receiving child pornography, and was ordered to stand trial next month in U.S. District Court.

The investigation into those charges occurred about the same time that Burchett was arrested in 1993 on suspicion of attempted lewd conduct on a child. The arrest occurred during an undercover sting operation by the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. He pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 18 months in state prison.

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