An Arroyo Grande man accused of a pair of home invasion-style sexual assaults and a string of residential burglaries in San Luis Obispo pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of burglary and assault with the intent to commit rape.
On Monday, 40-year-old Arthur Tiofilo Rocha appeared in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, pleading not guilty to a charge of assault with intent to commit rape, two counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and two counts of threatening to commit a crime of violence.
Several of the charges include sentencing enhancements for the alleged use of a knife during the assaults and because Rocha has a prior felony “strike” under California’s three strikes law.
The assault with intent to commit rape charge alone carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Rocha sat in the courtroom slouched in his seat and appeared to nearly doze off several times during his arraignment. At one point, Rocha flipped the middle finger to a Tribune photographer who took his picture.
Bradley Cornelius, a public defender appointed to Rocha’s case on Monday, said following the hearing that it was too early to comment on specifics of the case because he had not yet received relevant police reports and other records.
Rocha was arrested Aug. 1 after he was identified as a suspect in the home invasions, which took place within days of each other. Both occurred during the early morning hours and were carried out by a knife-wielding man who entered women’s homes through unlocked doors and windows.
On July 13, two women in their 20s fought off a man who attempted to sexually assault them in a home on Osos Street, police said.
Authorities identified Rocha as the suspect after discovering evidence from the July 13 alleged sexual assault, according to a news release from the San Luis Obispo Police Department.
Officers located Rocha at his Arroyo Grande residence and he was taken into custody without incident. A search of the apartment turned up “numerous items of women’s clothing, primarily undergarments,” as well as jewelry and photographs, according to a police statement released Aug. 3, the same day the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed its complaint against Rocha.
A search of Rocha’s vehicle also allegedly turned up two magnetic photographs of young women that appeared to be in their 20s, with one photo showing four women standing outside on the rear balcony of what appears to be Ventana Grill in Pismo Beach.
Police said it’s unclear whether any of the women in the photos are known to Rocha, or whether the photos were stolen. Investigators are asking for the public’s help in identifying the women.
The photo can be viewed at the San Luis Obispo Police Department’s Nixle Alert page.
Police said investigations into the sexual assaults in San Luis Obispo are ongoing. They’re asking anyone with information about Rocha to contact the San Luis Obispo Police Department at 805-781-7317.
Rocha is scheduled to be back in court Aug. 15. He remains in San Luis Obispo County Jail custody in lieu of $1 million bail.
Local news matters: We rely on readers like you more than ever before, and we currently offer free access to five stories a month. Support us further with a digital subscription to help ensure we can provide strong local journalism for many years to come. #ReadLocal