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Stranded motorist raped on I-5

December 11, 2007|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

In a brazen and unusual attack, a San Diego County woman was raped on the side of Interstate 5 last weekend by a man who asked if she needed help after her car broke down, authorities said.

"I've never heard of this happening on a freeway," said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "It shows that he's a very brazen individual, which makes him extremely dangerous."

The 24-year-old woman was driving south toward her San Diego County home about 2:30 a.m. Saturday when a tow truck switched lanes near the Junipero Serra Road offramp in San Juan Capistrano, causing her to hit the brakes and spin out of control on the rain-slicked pavement, Amormino said.

The car hit a barrier on the freeway's shoulder, rendering the car inoperable and preventing her from exiting on the driver's side.

The woman had gotten out of the vehicle and was calling a friend on her cellphone, Amormino said, when a man pulled in front of her in a dark-green or blue late-model sedan with a spoiler and baby's car seat in the rear.

Speaking in broken English, he offered to help, Amormino said. When she declined his offer, according to Amormino, he grabbed the cellphone, threw it to the ground, forced her into the front seat of her car and raped her.

He then sped away in his own car, traveling south on Interstate 5, Amormino said.

The woman used her cellphone to call police, who took her to a hospital where she was examined and released. "We're hoping that somebody saw something," Amormino said.

He called the attack "a weird and strange thing. It's highly unusual because, even at that time in the morning, the freeway is heavily traveled. There are literally hundreds of cars passing by with potential witnesses, including other motorists, the CHP and highway assistance vehicles."

Although Amormino said he was not aware of other rapes by motorists pretending to offer assistance on freeways, he said there had been cases involving drivers on deserted roads. One took place recently near the San Diego County town of San Marcos, in which a woman changing a flat tire fended off a would-be rapist.

Stranded motorists should stay in their cars with the windows up and the doors locked until authorities arrive, Amormino said, unless the car's position makes it unsafe to do so.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call the Sheriff's Department at (714) 647-7419.

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david.haldane@latimes.com

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