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Man Held in Alleged Rape of Teen

A Van Nuys painter is accused of attacking a 13-year-old girl as she walked to school. His van was spotted by police on routine patrol.

October 18, 2003|Patricia Ward Biederman and Andrew Blankstein | Times Staff Writers

Los Angeles police arrested a Van Nuys man Thursday night on suspicion of abducting and raping a 13-year-old girl after she provided a vivid description of her attacker and his van, authorities said Friday.

Ulrich Gibson Mejia, 32, was taken into custody about 9:30 p.m. Thursday by officers on a routine patrol near Victory Boulevard and Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys.

Police said that, following a two-hour interview, Mejia confessed."You'd be surprised how many people don't ask for attorneys," Los Angeles Police Capt. Jim Miller said. "The mind-set of the criminal is unusual."

Officials lauded the victim for her assistance in the investigation and her willingness to come forward.

"This young girl did the right thing. She did the brave thing," Los Angeles City Councilman Tony Cardenas said.

Mejia was booked on suspicion of kidnapping to commit robbery or rape.

Los Angeles Police Department Det. Al Aldaz said Mejia has a minor criminal record that does not include sexual assault.

At the time of his arrest, Mejia, a house painter, was accompanied by a 17-year-old girl described by police as his wife. Mejia is being held at the Van Nuys Jail in lieu of $2.2-million bail and may be arraigned Monday.

Investigators said they are confident Mejia is the man who forced the girl into his van at gunpoint Thursday morning as she walked with a friend to Robert Fulton Middle School in Van Nuys.

The girl was driven to a secluded spot nearby and raped, police said. She later escaped by jumping out of the van when the vehicle stopped near the school.

The girl was able to describe the interior of the white Chevy van, including a cell phone, BB gun and painter's equipment.

Officers Pedro Cabunoc and Jesse Flores were answering a radio call when they spotted the van described to them at roll call. "Hey, that vehicle's got to be it," Cabunoc said.

Mejia offered no resistance when he was detained, police said.

"He was just going along with the program, calm, cool and collected," Cabunoc said.

The arresting officers described the suspect as "pretty brazen" for allegedly abducting her in daylight in front of witnesses.

"He definitely wasn't smart," Cabunoc said.

Earlier in the day the two young officers had driven the alleged victim home. They described her as subdued and weary from her ordeal.

"We started the day taking her home and ended the day taking him behind bars," Flores said.

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