Kidnap-Rape and -Murder Updates and a Disgusting Item on Flutes and Schools

A Garden Grove man now faces a murder charge—and the possibility of the death penalty—because the 68-year-old victim in a recent attack and attempted rape died from her injuries.

An Anaheim man was convicted of kidnapping and raping a teenage girl in a van and attempting to abduct three other girls as they walked to school.

A Chino Hills man was sentenced to 32 years to life in state prison for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a woman outside of a Fullerton nightclub.

A 28-year-old man pleaded not guilty to sexually assaulting five women in separate incidents dating back a decade in Orange County.

Someone distributed homemade flutes tainted with semen to music students in schools across Southern California, according to alerts from Fullerton, Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Newport-Mesa and Capistrano Unified school districts.

Michael Aon Varela, 30, had faced attempted murder and assault with intent to commit rape charges, as reported in this column 14 days ago. But the Orange County District Attorney’s office announced on Thursday that the charges were bumped up to special-circumstances murder in the commission of attempted rape because the Garden Grove woman died on Sept. 21 from her injuries. She had been walking outside her home in the 13400 block of Balos Drive around 5:15 a.m. on Sept. 10 when she was approached by a stranger. He assaulted her and tried to rape her as a witness called 9-1-1. Police officers arrived and found Varela at the scene. Currently being held without bail at the Central Jail Complex in Santa Ana, Varela would face a minimum of life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted. But because the 30-year-old faces a special-circumstances allegation—specifically murder during the commission of attempted rape—the OCDA could decide to seek the death penalty. Varela’s arraignment was continued to Oct. 13.

Elias Omar Xicotencatl, 26, waited through nine hours of jury deliberations before learning he had been found guilty Thursday of this laundry list of charges: felony forcible rape, sodomy by force, three counts of attempted kidnapping to commit a sex offense and assault of a minor with intent to commit sexual offense. Jurors also found true sentencing enhancements allegations of two counts of personal use of a deadly weapon, aggravated kidnapping, kidnapping and tying and binding victims. He could get life in state prison without the possibility of parole at his scheduled Dec. 8 sentencing in Santa Ana. On March 31, 2011, Xicotencatl jumped out of his van and kidnapped a 14-year-old Jane girl walking to Loara High School in Anaheim before driving her to an unknown location, blindfolding her, binding her hands and feet and then forcibly raping and sodomizing her. She was later dropped off at her school, where she reported the attack to her principal. Anaheim police investigators collected DNA evidence from her vagina. Next, during the morning of Nov. 9, 2012, as girls ages 11 and 12 were walking to Ball Junior High School in Anaheim, Xicotencatl tried to kidnap the pair in hopes of committing more sex offenses. Finally, on July 13, 2013, he tried to kidnap a 16-year-old girl walking to cross country practice at Loara High by chasing her with a sharp metal rod. Xicotencatl assaulted her with the intent to commit a sex offense before a resident who heard the commotion chased him away. However, the young victim got a license plate number, and Anaheim police arrested Xicotencatl that same day. During the Orange County Superior Court trial, Deputy District Attorney Rick Zimmer called the defendant a serial predator “who was out hunting for teenage and preteen girls.” But the first victim swore on the stand that Xicotencatl was not her attacker, claiming the rapist was in his 30s and 40s. Zimmer, who works in the OCDA Sexual Assault Unit, told jurors that victim had only caught a quick glimpse of Xicotencatl, initially gave contradictory descriptions of the attacker to investigators and was trying to now remember him six years after the fact. Xicotencatl was identified in a photo lineup by the two girls in the November 2012 incident, and his DNA matched that collected in the original attack, according to Zimmer.

Nelson Mauricio Lunaty Garcia, 34, was sentenced Wednesday not only to 32 years to life in state prison, but he must register as a sex offender for life. He was facing up to 95 years to life. Garcia is the Chino Hills man who posed as a peace officer in the parking lot of Fullerton’s InCahoots nightclub on Sept. 2, 2015, when he approached a woman, asked if she had been drinking, administered a fake field sobriety test using a tongue compressor and a Q-Tip and then forced her into the backseat of his vehicle. Garcia bound her hands with zip ties, drove off with her, pulled into a secluded location several miles away, sexually assaulted her and finally returned her to the InCahoots parking lot. Friends of the victim saw Garcia in the same parking lot on Sept. 9, 2015, and contacted the Fullerton Police Department, whose officers arrived and arrested him. He had on him a loaded gun, handcuffs, tongue depressors, Q-Tips, and zip ties, including cut zip ties on the rear floorboard of his vehicle. A jury this past Sept. 6 found him guilty of these felonies: kidnapping to commit a sex offense, forcible oral copulation, sexual penetration by foreign object and force, sodomy by force, attempted forcible rape and attempted kidnapping to commit a sex offense. He was also convicted of these misdemeanors: carrying loaded firearm on person or in vehicle in public place and four counts of assault. These sentencing enhancement allegations were found true: three counts of substantially increased risk of harm to the victim and three counts of kidnapping.

Christopher Scott White was charged Friday with these felonies: rape, rape of an unconscious victim and three counts of sexual penetration of an unconscious victim. But the investigating Buena Park Police Department has released few details about what led up to White’s arrest. We do know the attacks he is accused of committing happened on March 17, 2007; Jan. 6, 2010; Jan. 1, 2011; and July 25, 2015. White is due back in court on Oct. 23.

An unidentified musician affiliated with Flutes Across the World, a nonprofit that distributes instruments made out of PVC pipe or bamboo to music students in partnership with the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and school districts in Orange and Los Angeles counties, is being investigated by the state after bodily fluids were found in some donated items. An official with the Saugus Union School District confirmed that the substance is semen. The California Department of Justice is heading up the investigation. The Santa Ana Police Department confirmed this afternoon it is part of the probe. “The Santa Ana Police Department is currently assisting the California State Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in the collection of recorders that may have been exposed to bodily fluids,” reads an SAPD avistory. “A recorder is a wooden flute-like musical instrument used by children. Based on information provided by the Attorney General and Postal Inspectors, the Santa Ana Police Department was able to identify approximately 55 children that took a musical class at Bower’s Kidseum on June 27, June 28, or July 22, 2017. The classes were taught by an independent contractor not employed by Bower’s Kidseum, who is not being identified at this time. Detectives from the Santa Ana Police Department’s Special Crimes Unit are actively attempting contact with the parents of each child. The detectives have already contacted most parents and 11 recorders have been collected at this point. The Special Crimes Unit continues to pursue all investigative le ads within the City’s jurisdiction. Therefore, anyone who has or knows of a child that attended a musical class at Bower’s Kidseum on the above dates, or may be in possession of a recorder distributed during those classes, is asked to contact Detective Perez as soon as possible at (714) 245-8351.” Fourth through sixth graders at Golden Hill and Rolling Hills elementary schools during the 2016-17 school year also participated in the Flutes Across the World program, according to a statement posted on the Fullerton School District website. “Although presenters at our schools are never alone with children and are always supervised by a teacher or school staff, in an abundance of caution, this presenter will not return to the Fullerton School District,” reads the FSD message. “We were informed that this individual has worked in a number of school districts throughout California and we have no evidence to suggest any of our students are connected with the investigation.” Similar messages were sent to parents with students in participating elementary schools in Anaheim, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa and within the Capistrano Unified district. The Irvine-based Philharmonic Society of Orange County says it is breaking ties with Flutes Across the World, which reportedly also supplied instruments for programs at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.

Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.

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