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Police Say 4 of 7 Victims Accosted Near Campuses

A teen suspect is being held in the spree of attacks on Valley girls. Charges include rape.

June 07, 2003|Cara Mia DiMassa and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

A man who allegedly accosted or assaulted seven schoolgirls in the east San Fernando Valley earlier this year approached his victims on or near school campuses at least four times, police and school officials said Friday.

Juan Antonio Rosales, 19, was arrested in March after an assault on a female student at John Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley. The arrest concluded what police described as an intense week of stepped-up patrols and surveillance at area schools.

Authorities said it was not until early March, after a fourth-grader who was attacked at North Hollywood's Strathern Street Elementary School provided police with a detailed description of the attacker, that they realized a serial molester had been stalking local schoolchildren.

"Based on that incident, we were able to tie him to a child-annoying incident that occurred on Feb. 25," Los Angeles Police Department Det. Blair Grabiak said. "We had enough links in the descriptions to believe that they were the same person."

LAPD sex crimes detectives have linked Rosales, a student at Polytechnic's adult school, to attacks in an area of North Hollywood bounded by the Hollywood Freeway and Roscoe, Magnolia and Lankershim boulevards.

His victims were 7 to 17 years of age, police said. Most of the attacks occurred in the afternoon.

The crimes involved rape, child annoying, child molestation, aggravated assault, sexual assault on a child, forcible lewd act on a child, kidnapping to commit rape and assault with intent to commit rape, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney's office. The majority of the victims have come forward since the arrest.

Los Angeles Unified School District spokeswoman Monica Carazo said Strathern's principal sent letters to parents, staff members and other local school officials immediately after a March 6 attack, when a student from another school taking part in an after-school program on the Strathern campus was molested in a school auditorium.

"We thought it was an isolated incident," Carazo said. "We didn't have any reason to assume otherwise."

P.J. Webb, a Los Angeles Unified school police spokesman, echoed that sentiment, saying, "I'm not sure there was a pattern that could be articulated."

But by that time, detectives said, Rosales had been preying on schoolgirls for at least two months, beginning with the attempted kidnapping of a 17-year-old female student waiting for a school bus Jan. 24 outside North Hollywood High School. That incident was not reported to authorities until five days later and it would not be linked with the other crimes until after Rosales' arrest, Grabiak said.

On Feb. 9, police allege, Rosales approached a 17-year-old girl and abducted her near Vineland Avenue and Sherman Way before raping her.

Four days later, authorities said, Rosales attempted to lure a 10-year-old girl who was standing behind a chain-link fence in front of Victory Boulevard Elementary School into his car. The school's principal, Christine C. Flannery, said the Feb. 13 attack on the campus occurred between 5 and 6 p.m.

The student, a fourth-grader who was newly arrived at the school, was approached by a man in a car who spoke to her through the passenger window. The man told the girl that he had been asked to take her home. She refused to join him outside the school gates, and told teachers. "She was very smart about the whole ordeal, and knew something was wrong," Flannery said.

Flannery said the teacher on duty at the school when the incident occurred, a coach, called police. The girl, Flannery said, "gave a very good description of the man and the car. And we haven't seen him since."

Immediately after the incident, Flannery said she sent a letter to Victory Boulevard Elementary parents, and faxed copies of to other neighborhood schools. "We always do that whenever there's an incident," she said, "in case he is going from school to school."

Still, it would be another month and four more attacks before police arrested a suspect.

A 14-year-old girl was approached at Vantage Avenue and Cantara Street on Feb. 25. The next day, outside a fast-food restaurant at Lankershim Boulevard and Strathern Street, a 15-year-old girl was battered, police said.

Rosales was arrested on March 11, after allegedly trying to attack a female student at the Polytechnic adult school. "He got brazen and attempted to assault someone at his own school," Webb said, "and that led to his identification."

Rosales allegedly tried to forcibly take the girl to another part of the campus. The student escaped, and returned to her classroom, where a teacher called campus police, authorities said.

Webb said a school police officer conducted an investigation and eventually found Rosales taking a test in class. He arrested Rosales and transported him to the local LAPD station. Rosales is being held on $1-million bail at the downtown Twin Towers jail.

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