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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Oxnard Man Is Held on Suspicion of Rape

Crime: Police say a 14-year-old girl was attacked near an arcade as she walked home from a friend's house.

March 19, 2000|GINA PICCALO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

OXNARD — A 29-year-old Oxnard man has been booked on suspicion of raping a 14-year-old girl near a local teen hangout as she walked home Tuesday evening.

Jose Gomez Manriques is scheduled to be arraigned Monday on one count of rape, violation of probation and auto theft. He is being held without bail on federal charges for reentering the U.S. after being deported to Mexico.

According to authorities, the rape took place between 6 and 6:30 p.m. on a dirt path that borders the Lazerstar arcade in the 900 block of East Ventura Boulevard. The victim was walking home from a friend's house, and it was not known if she had visited the arcade.

Authorities said evidence at the crime scene led them to Manriques, who was arrested three days later when he picked up his paycheck at an Oxnard business where he worked.

Oxnard Police Sgt. Lee Wilcox said the victim suffered cuts and was treated at Ventura County Medical Center. Doctors also completed a rape kit and will run tests on DNA evidence obtained from the girl, Wilcox said.

No weapon was found and the victim said she did not see what was used during the attack. Wilcox believes a cutting tool caused her injuries, but would not say where the girl was cut.

Arcade manager Richard Villafan, who was parking his car in the back lot near the path about the time of the rape, said he didn't see anyone outside, adding that the area was well lit.

Arcade staff said teenagers from an adjacent apartment complex often climb over a 10-foot fence and then take the path to the arcade.

Police said the victim was taking a shortcut home when she was attacked.

Children from a nearby elementary school often walk to the arcade after school, arcade employees say.

However, 6-foot bushes along the side of the building obscure the path from the road and the parking lot. The tiny path has become a hiding place for pot-smoking teens, but adults are never seen hanging around, Villafan said.

"When I do [see anyone] I usually go back there to see what they're doing," he said.

Villafan was tending to a large group of children from a Camarillo church when officers arrived later that evening to question him and his staff. No one saw anything and noise inside the arcade made it impossible to hear an attack outside, said Villafan.

Security guards patrol the parking lots and arcade on weekend nights, but during the week the arcade isn't busy enough to justify security, Villafan said.

Gang graffiti scarred the walls outside the arcade, but a fist fight three years ago is the most violent incident that assistant manager Jason Gutierrez, 23, could remember.

On Saturday afternoon, the arcade was packed with children and teenage girls from a West Los Angeles soccer team who came to play laser tag after a soccer game in Oxnard.

Ventura resident Dave Heiss brought his 10-year-old daughter Heather to the arcade to evaluate the place for a planned party.

"It doesn't seem like that rough of a neighborhood," he said. "[But] I'm not going to send her here by herself when she's 10."

At the apartment complex around the corner, Oxnard native Marco Rodriguez, 23, said he keeps close watch on his two daughters, ages 2 and 7. He moved into the apartment two months ago, primarily because managers emphasized a newly installed security fence, he said.

"They said when I moved in, it was a safe place," he said. "But [crime] can happen in the safest neighborhoods."

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