Witnesses recount brazen assault on girl in Arroyo Grande

Steve Missamore was sitting at his desk at Lady Family Mortuary in Arroyo Grande on Wednesday afternoon when he noticed something suspicious outside: a man, in khaki pants and a blue sweatshirt, loitering in the parking lot.

Missamore kept an eye on the man, who was later identified by police as 23-year-old Fernando Frias of Santa Maria. Missamore watched as Frias walked up Fair Oaks Avenue and started talking to a teenage girl. The two looked like they were arguing.

Missamore and a second man, James “Jimbo” Brown, recalled Thursday the dramatic attack that followed.

The 17-year-old girl, whose name was not released, later told police that a man approached her asking for help finding his missing dog in the nearby farmland.

Missamore walked outside to his car, watching as the two went by, Frias walking about 10 yards in front of the girl.

Then, something else strange happened to catch Missamore’s interest: Frias stopped and hid behind a tree next to the mortuary, and let the girl walk by.

“I’m not sure what to think,” he said Thursday, recounting the event. “Maybe a boyfriend and girlfriend fighting?”

A few minutes later, when Frias and the girl were a few hundred yards away, Missamore’s babysitter arrived with his children.

Missamore was in the process of relating the odd interaction to his babysitter when he saw Frias grab the girl and throw her down into the Arroyo Grande Creek bed near the Fair Oaks bridge — a drop of 15 to 20 feet.

“I just took off running,” he said. “I’m calling 911 on my cell phone. I’m thinking ‘I can’t believe this has happened.’ ”

By the time Missamore reached the creek bed, someone else had come to the girl’s aid.

Brown, a 42-year-old carpenter who lives in Arroyo Grande, said he heard screaming and found the man straddling the young woman, who lay on her back.

The man was smashing her with a large rock, Brown said.

“I screamed at him to get off of her and he took off,” Brown said.

Brown said he helped the girl up to the street, where two male teens stayed with the girl until medical help arrived. A third male teen chased after the suspect as well, police said.

She was crying and saying how bad it hurt; Brown said she was small in stature and her “whole head and face were covered with blood.”

“(Missamore) and I ran down the creek after the guy,” Brown said. “We went down there into the bushes and found him, and I tackled him until the cops came right after that. I’ve been around here a long time and never seen anything like this.”

Frias was booked into San Luis Obispo County Jail on suspicion of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and violating the terms of his parole. The charge of making terrorist threats was added as well, police said Thursday.

Frias, who was on parole for a domestic violence conviction, remained in County Jail on Thursday. He was being held in lieu of $100,000 bail and on a parole hold.

Police declined on Thursday to release the girl’s name. She is a sophomore at Arroyo Grande High.

Principal Ryan Pinkerton said he talked to the girl at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital, where she was taken after the attack. She was released from the hospital last night.

Pinkerton brought the girl a yearbook Thursday morning. She is resting at home, he said, and isn’t sure whether she’ll return to finish the school year.

Counseling services were available at the high school Thursday for the male students who saw Frias run out of the creek and then helped the student who was attacked.