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Man Flees After Attacks on Women, Blaze in Home

The suspect, hired as a handyman, allegedly ties up both victims; one escapes and the other is rescued. Newport Beach home is a total loss.

October 16, 2003|H.G. Reza | Times Staff Writer

Police rescued a bound and gagged woman from a burning Newport Beach home Wednesday but were still looking for a man suspected of setting the fire and attacking another woman who escaped and called for help.

Investigators believe the suspect, Kevin Duane Carpenter, disappeared in the confusion by scrambling down a steep cliff behind the house and escaping into the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Preserve, according to Sgt. Steve Shulman, a Newport Beach police spokesman.

He said detectives found evidence in the bay that suggested Carpenter used the water to escape. But he said police were still searching the area late in the day.

Carpenter, who authorities say lives in Lake Forest, is wanted for many felonies stemming from Wednesday's attacks, including assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. One of the victims had hired Carpenter to do handyman chores at the house, investigators said.

Police declined to identify the two women Carpenter allegedly victimized.

But neighbors said the house, in the 1700 block of Galaxy Drive, was leased to a doctor with two school-age children. Shulman said the second woman is the doctor's personal assistant. Police said the women and Carpenter were the only people in the home at the time.

Shulman said police do not know the motive for the attack on the women, who were treated for minor injuries.

The doctor's assistant, who was struck in the head by the assailant, had also been tied up but managed to free herself and call police, Shulman said. She dashed out of the house with a cell phone, which she used to dial 911 just before 10 a.m.

When officers arrived, the house was engulfed in flames, Shulman said. They peeked through a window and caught a glimpse of the suspect, Shulman said. It was the only look they got of him. Officers went inside the burning house and found the bound and gagged woman and carried her to safety.

"I heard a noise and thought, 'What's going on?' " said Becky Rue, a neighbor on Santiago Drive. She said she heard officers shouting, "Open the door, open the door! We're coming in!"

Rue said the rescued woman's mouth was still covered with tape when officers rushed her out of the house.

The fire burned for hours despite firefighters' use of two water booms and a hose to put it out.

The house collapsed into a heap that continued to smolder into the late afternoon.

The only part of the home that did not burn was the three-car garage, separated from the house by a swimming pool. A police SWAT team entered the garage through a hole cut in the door by a firefighter after the blaze was quelled in the afternoon. Shulman said they found no trace of the assailant.

No shots were fired and no firefighters or officers were reported injured.

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