Todd David Burpee, 20, a 2006 graduate of Palo Alto High School, was arrested Thursday night in connection with the abduction, beating and sexual assault of a 17-year-old Gunn High School student Tuesday afternoon.
Burpee has been charged with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and two counts of sexual assault. Police said it is not a "rape" case despite widespread media use of the term.
Burpee was arrested without incident 10:30 p.m. Thursday by Palo Alto police as he and a girlfriend were in the drive-through lane of a fast-food restaurant in San Jose, Palo Alto police Agent Dan Ryan said.
Police Chief Lynne Johnson, noting that the attack was "a parent's worst nightmare," attributed the arrest to solid, round-the-clock "old-fashioned" police work.
She said Palo Alto Patrol Officer Eric Bulatao -- with the department only a year -- provided a important piece of information that led police to Burpee, but did not specify what the link consisted of.
She quoted one detective who told her the case was like a complex jigsaw puzzle, and the officer supplied a key missing piece.
The link reportedly related to a situation Bulatao had checked out earlier that clicked when he saw an artist's sketch of the assailant. He mentioned the connection to police detectives, who pursued the link to Burpee.
Detectives located his current address in San Jose and put the house under surveillance. When Burpee and a woman left, they followed them to a fast-food restaurant and waited until they were in the order line -- hemmed in by curbs and cars -- before officers surrounded the vehicle and took Burpee into custody without incident.
Burpee, who currently lives in San Jose, formerly lived near Arastradero Road where the Gunn student was abducted about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday.
Ryan said there is no known connection between Burpee and the victim and the attack at this stage appears to be random.
The girl was released from the hospital late yesterday, Johnson said. She added that the girl and her family are traumatized by the "horrendous crime," and appealed to the media to respect their privacy.
The girl was grabbed from behind while she was locking up her bicycle in the rear of the building where she lives with her parents in the 500 block of Arastradero Road. Her assailant slammed her head into the pavement at least twice and then forced her into a car, drove to an unknown locatation and sexually assaulted her, police said.
The assault with a deadly weapon charge is because her head was slammed into the ground, Ryan said.
The girl escaped about an hour later when she jumped out her abductor's car when it was stopped in traffic in the 500 block of North Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale.
A passing motorist, Fred Burgener, 41, of Sunnyvale, let her into his car and drove to his mother-in-law's nearby house where he called 911.
"I saw her running down the street," Burgener said. "She was bleeding from her mouth and really shaken up." She also had a black eye. In his car, she kept telling him to "go faster," but because of rush-hour traffic he went to his mother-in-law's house a few blocks away instead of to a hospital. He also lives in the area, Burgener said.
Burgener, 41, a Union Pacific Railway engineer, said the girl was crying and gasping for air and acted highly distracted. She was able to give him her name and age, but little else due to a language barrier -- she spoke an Asian dialect.
"I didn't know what it was about until I saw it on television," he said in an interview prior to today's press conference.
"It was shocking. I'm an ordinary person and lead an ordinary life." He said especially felt the impact of the case because he has an 11-year-old daughter.
The abduction, beating and sexual assault "is the worst nightmare that can happen for a parent, the police and the community," Johnson said. "You can imagine the fear a crime like this caused parents."
She credited her officers with working extra hours on the case the last three days, including passing out thousands of leaflets to motorists in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale. Johnson said more than 50 people called in possible tips to the police.
While at Paly, Burpee was a sprinter in track during his sophomore and junior years and played varsity football in his junior year. He gave up both sports in his senior year, according to track and junior-varsity football coach Jason Fung.
Fung said Burpee "kept to himself a lot. He was a good kid as far as I'm concerned. There were no indications of problems."
"This news is very shocking to me," he said of Burpee's arrest. "You never can predict something like this." He said he was aware that Burpee had a difficult family life but was under the impression that Burpee wanted to "try to make a better life for himself" after graduating.
Burpee listed "Marine Corps" in a future-plans list by Paly graduates. Marine Major Eric R. Dent said "the guy is not a Marine. There is no record of him." One news report said he failed the Marine entry tests.
Earl Hansen, varsity football coach at Paly, said he was aware of problems Burpee had, and characterized him as "a regular player, not a great player." But he dropped sports in his senior year and seemed to be "in a different world," Hansen said.
An older sister, Monet Burpee, graduated from Paly in 2004, where she was a varsity cheerleader. A brother, Nate Burpee, is a senior and varsity football player at Gunn High School.
Police used the city's new emergency-notification telephone system to call residents Friday morning and let them know an arrest had been made in the abduction case. They earlier had used it to alert residents to the attack.
Neighbors of the small apartment complex were the girl lived said they have been shaken by the attack.
"I never thought it would happen in a neighborhood like this," one neighbor, Junior Maldonado, said.
Another neighbor, Daniel Choi, said he has children attending both nearby Terman Middle School and Gunn, and has definitely changed patterns.
"I have to warn them to be careful, and I have to pick them up every day," he said.
The attack occurred in a secluded bicycle-parking area behind an open, ground-level parking garage underneath the apartments.