Crime

Man attacked SLO women in home invasions, raping one at knifepoint, officers testify

Arthur Tiofilo Rocha, 40, of Arroyo Grande, pictured here on Aug. 6, 2018, was back in court on Monday for his preliminary hearing in the home-invasion rape case.
Arthur Tiofilo Rocha, 40, of Arroyo Grande, pictured here on Aug. 6, 2018, was back in court on Monday for his preliminary hearing in the home-invasion rape case. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Update, 11:30 a.m. Tuesday:

On Tuesday morning, Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy found probable cause exists to hold Arthur Rocha to answer on all charges against him. Rocha is scheduled to be back in court March 6.

Original story:

An Arroyo Grande man forcibly raped a San Luis Obispo woman in her bed while holding a knife to her throat, a police officer testified Monday in a hearing for the man who’s accused of a pair of home invasion attacks on sleeping women in July.

According to testimony, not only did DNA found on a knife and glove left behind from the alleged attacks match Arthur Tiofila Rocha or someone in his immediate family, but items stolen from one of the homes were found in his car, authorities said.

Rocha, 40, faces 14 felony charges including forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by a foreign object, assault with a deadly weapon, assault while committing a burglary, first-degree burglary, and making criminal threats. He’s pleaded not guilty.

If convicted of forcible rape alone, Rocha faces up to life in state prison.

San Luis Obispo police had previously identified Rocha as the man who committed two home invasion-style attacks on women sleeping in their beds in the early morning hours of July 8 on Los Palos Drive and July 13 on Osos Street near downtown.

After identifying Rocha as a suspect, a search of his car and apartment turned up “numerous items of women’s clothing, primarily undergarments,” as well as jewelry and photographs, according to a news release.

But during a preliminary hearing Monday, a Superior Court judge heard testimony from five officers who investigated the alleged crimes. Though the hearing did not conclude Monday, Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy will rule Tuesday morning whether enough probable cause exists to move the case toward trial.

‘I’ll kill you both’

On Monday afternoon, Duffy heard testimony from San Luis Obispo police Officer Kylee Bailey, who responded to the 1500 block of Osos Street at about 6 a.m. July 13 for a report of an assault.

Bailey testified that two women — one a friend who was staying the night at the other’s home and sharing a bed — awoke to a man in the bed on top of one of the women, “choking her” and holding a knife to her throat.

The officer testified that the victims told her the man said, “Shut the f--- up or I’ll kill you both,” and “I’ll f------ kill you.”

The women were somehow able to fight the assailant back, break free, and flee the apartment to a neighbor’s. The man, who they reported was wearing all black including nylon on his head and latex gloves, followed them out the door and ran away.

The two women did not report that their assailant sexually assaulted them.

Under examination by Deputy District Attorney Julie Antos, Bailey testified that a piece of a latex glove was found entangled on a nearby fence, where officers also found one of the women’s cell phones, a 5-inch switchblade knife, an opened but unused condom, and several zip-ties.

Investigators found a screen had been cut in a kitchen window, where Rocha is believed to have entered the home.

SLOPD Officer Crystal Locarnini, who also reported to the scene, testified that she found an abandoned pair of black shorts that contained un-opened condoms.

Miguel Lozano, a San Luis Obispo police detective, testified that he interviewed a woman later that day who said she was opening up a nearby business at about 6 a.m. when she saw a Hispanic male running away from the scene of the alleged attack wearing a black shirt and black socks but no pants.

The woman didn’t report the man because she didn’t know he might be related to a crime, Lozano said.

District Attorney’s Investigator Amy Chastain, who investigated the case as a San Luis Obispo police detective at the time, testified Monday that there was another attack in the 100 block of Los Palos Drive in the early morning of July 8.

Chastain said she interviewed the alleged victim of that attack, who told her that she was sleeping in her bed when she awoke to a man on top of her, covering her mouth. The man told her not to speak, before raping her and forcing her to perform oral sex on him, the officer testified.

After the man left and the woman reported the attack, officers found a glove and a pair of black socks in her room, Chastain said. The gloves and switchblade knife were sent to the California Department of Justice forensic lab in Goleta; DNA found on the knife “matched” Rocha, Chastain said, while DNA on the glove was found to belong to Rocha or a member of his family.

Chastain also testified that a video surveillance system at a nearby business complex captured a vehicle similar to Rocha’s Nissan pull up and park shortly after the attack and turn its headlights off. Once nearby police lights disappear, the vehicle was seen leaving the parking lot and driving off, Chastain said.

But under cross examination by Rocha’s defense attorney, Matthew Kraut, Chastain testified that the third victim claimed she could identify her attacker, but didn’t identify Rocha when she was shown a photo.

There were other potential leads investigators did not follow up on, Kraut pointed out, such as two passersby who later reported seeing a dark figure lurking around the area of the first attack, and several Hispanic men who had done termite eradication at the first victims’ apartment in the days leading up to the attack.

Kraut’s questioning also forced Chastain to testify that the assailant in one of the attacks referred to himself as “Manny,” when there is no record of Rocha ever using the nickname.

Rocha’s hearing will continue Tuesday morning with arguments from Antos and Kraut.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an error regarding dates of the alleged crimes, to remove some details of the testimony, and to additionally report the outcome of Tuesday’s hearing.

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