Authorities have arrested an Army veteran and cargo pilot in connection with a trio of attacks on women in Orange County that date back almost two years.
Robert Daniel Yucas, 51, of Cathedral City, is suspected of sexually assaulting a woman last month in Aliso Viejo, and two other women in January and April of last year.
A break in the case came when detectives received an anonymous tip through Orange County Crime Stoppers. They were told that Yucas, arrested in an unspecified case in San Diego on Sept. 4, might be their man, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said.
A DNA sample taken from Yucas matched DNA evidence in the attacks, according to the sheriff.
Yucas, a pilot in the military, now works for Kalitta Air and was returning from a trip abroad when he was arrested Sept. 16 at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska.
“This is a very significant case that had unfolded rapidly over the last several days,” Barnes told reporters at a news conference.
Investigators earlier had checked DNA recovered from the victims in Orange County, but found no matches in law enforcement databases, Barnes said.
The suspect employed the same methods in each attack – grabbing a woman on the hiking trail and choking her into unconsciousness before sexually assaulting her, Barnes alleged.
According to Barnes, Yucas lived in Aliso Viejo from 2017 through 2019.
The sheriff and Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said they suspect there are more victims and asked anyone with information to call a tip line at 714-647-7419.
Anonymous tips continue to be welcomed through Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS.
“Sexual predators do not stop on their own,” Spitzer said. “They only stop because law enforcement … stops them.”
Sheriff’s officials launched media campaigns to help solve the crimes last year, and last month they released composite sketches.
The suspect, though, was still “brazen” enough to return to the area to commit more attacks, Spitzer said.
Yucas remains in custody in Anchorage, awaiting an extradition hearing, authorities said.
Yucas has been faces eight counts, all felonies, including kidnapping to commit a sex offense, forcible rape, attempted forcible rape and assault with the intent to commit a sex offense.
He could face up to 45 years to life in prison if convicted of all crimes at trial.
In the most recent attack on Aug. 28, a woman, 41, told detectives she was walking about 11 p.m. in an area in Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo when a man grabbed her from behind and dragged her into some bushes. She says she lost consciousness and when she awoke, her pants were pulled down and her assailant had disappeared, according to prosecutors.
The attacks began on Jan. 20, 2020, when a woman, 24, was skateboarding in the same park and an assailant asked her for directions. As she pulled out her phone, he grabbed her in a chokehold and dragged her into bushes next to the walking path. She was choked into unconsciousness and raped, prosecutors alleged.
On April 2, 2020, a jogger, 41, was grabbed in the park from behind and dragged into the bushes in a chokehold. The victim fought him off, prosecutors said.
– City News Service