News

Assault victim describes severity of attack

Former Gunn High School student appears in court in Palo Alto to testify about the brutal Oct. 30 attack along Arastradero Road

The Gunn High School student who was beaten, kidnapped and sexually assaulted last Oct. 30 appeared in court Wednesday in Palo Alto and described in a sometimes quiet but clear voice what happened to her.

But the slight, young Asian woman could not positively identify Todd David Burpee as the man who assaulted her that afternoon after she rode her bike home from school to her parents' apartment on Arastradero Road.

Burpee, a 2006 Palo Alto High School graduate, was in court for a preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to hold a trial. The hearing was continued until 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

Burbee has been charged with the assault and kidnapping of the woman, 17 at the time.

The woman, identified in court only as Jane Doe, wore a baseball cap and kept her head down, looking at the floor throughout the entire hearing and during most of her testimony -- with one exception. The bill of the cap kept her face out of view.

The one time she looked up was when Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney James Leonard asked her if she saw the man who assaulted her in the courtroom.

"Not really sure," she replied, after a quick look around.

She was accompanied by a court advocate, a woman who kept her arm around her the entire time she was in court, including when she was testifying. Another woman, possibly a relative, consoled her, also with an arm around her, as she waited to testify.

She said she saw a black man standing by a door to her apartment complex when she came home that day. She asked him he wanted to get in, because people sometimes forget their keys, as she said she had done in the past. He replied "Yes," she said.

But after she unlocked the door and started to go in, she turned around walked back outside.

"I was scared," she explained. "The man followed me and attacked me from the back. He covered my mouth with his hand."

She said she struggled. "He put me on the ground and he choked my neck with both hands," she said. She said that the man also twisted her neck.

"I wanted to die because it was so painful," she said.

She lost consciousness briefly from being choked, and when she came to, "He hit my head on the ground several times," she said, referring to a concrete walkway.

She remembers being dragged to a car, being put face down in the back seat and covered with a large cloth before the car drove away.

She remembers the man stopping three times and getting out of the car. She said he was talking on a cell phone almost the entire time.

At one point when he left the car, she got her cell phone out of her backpack and called 911 and started talking to an emergency operator. But she ended the call because the man returned. When her phone rang a short time later, the man found it and took it away.

The third time the car stopped, the man got out of the car, came into the backseat, and pulled down her jeans and underwear, she said. The man then used a finger to sexually assault her, she said.

The man then left the car and went into a house, which turned out to be on North Fair Oaks Avenue in Sunnyvale where his girlfriend lived. The woman said she waited a short time, then got out of the car, running down the street crying for help.

A passing motorist, Fred Burgener of Sunnyvale, stopped and took the young woman to his mother-in-law's nearby house nearby, and called police.

Burpee was arrested two days later at his mother's house in San Jose after an extensive search for witnesses by Palo Alto and Sunnyvale police. Police also recovered the car that they say Burpee was driving and recovered evidence from it.

The arrest was the result of the girl's description of the man to a police sketch artist. A Palo Alto officer, Eric Bulatao, recognized the the sketch as Burpee because he had questioned Burpee about a week earlier when he noticed him sitting in a car in a neighborhood near Arastradero.

After his arrest, Palo Alto police reported that Burpee admitted he had assaulted and kidnapped the young woman. He said he had been angry because of a fight with his girlfriend.

"It could have been anyone; it could have been a guy," police quoted him as saying. "I was just mad." Police reported that Burpee thought the woman was dead when he left her in the car.

Palo Alto Officer April Wagner also testified at today's hearing. She was one of the first officers to talk to the woman after she had been taken to Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

Wagner, who worked as a registered nurse for four years before becoming a police officer, described the girl's injuries, which she photographed as evidence.

The girl had a lip that was lacerated "through and through," an abrasion on her forehead, a lump on her head, abrasions on her nose and chin, broken blood vessels on both sides of her neck, abrasions on both hips, two bruised fingers, abrasions on her knuckles and swelling of both lips.

Wagner said the girl's face was covered in dried blood, as if she had had a nosebleed.

When Wagner and another officer first tried to talk to her, she kept asking for her mother and asking where she was.

Later, when she was able to answer questions, "It was difficult to understand her because she had difficulty in moving her jaw," Wagner said.

Burpee appeared impassive during the testimony, watching but not revealing any emotion. He glanced at several relatives who were in the audience. His girlfriend was called to testify by the prosecution but indicated she would take the Fifth Amendment to not incriminate herself. She was dismissed by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Thang Nguyen Barrett.

Related material:

VIDEO: Chief details arrest of assault suspect (Nov. 2, 2007)

VIDEO: Good Samaritan recalls shocking day (Nov. 2, 2007)

Comments

Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2008 at 5:59 am

[Comment removed by Palo Alto Online staff].


Posted by Walter E. Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 6:11 am

Since there was no question of the ID of the attacker, I believe it was uncalled for to ask her to identify him.


Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 10:11 am



It is terrible that this case went to trial putting the victim and the community through this trauma again.

Since the attacker chose to go to trial and put everyone through this he should face the maximum penalty with no mercy, the same should apply to his girlfriend if she is implicated in any cover up etc.


It is still unclear to me how this attacker was attending school in the PAUSD when his family did not live here.


Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 3, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Angry over a fight with his girlfriend? The maximum penalty is warranted. A screening process should also be put in place at our high schools to see if we can identify any similar individuals before they commit horrific crimes and students should be trained in self-defense. Lest anyone has any doubts, this proves it can happen here. My sympathies to the victim.


Posted by Bill, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 3, 2008 at 1:41 pm

Julie, attend school here and not live here. It's Soooo easy.


Posted by w, a resident of Southgate
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:08 pm

why is a vietnamese judge presiding over a so called african american? many vietnamese immigrants recieve financial aid , while an african american or similar minority isnt even considered if thety have a severe life altering health problem this isntb to stir animosity, as i am asiatic myself, but its time we have juasice for all ,just like i pleged in grammar school ,but have not seen this truth in the american scene.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 2:44 pm

The judge is an American, as is the victim, the perp and most North American blacks. We have equal justice under the law - an ofay or an Asian who play the every day is push day game receive if anything worse treatment than a "brother."


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 3, 2008 at 3:04 pm

As an aside, do we now have two Walter_E_Wallis of Midtown, s I am seeing some say Walter E Wallis (without the underscore). Walter, if you are out there, someone is possibly stealing your unique identity.


Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Apr 3, 2008 at 3:28 pm

to "w",

this is the first time I've ever seen someone refer to their ethnicity as an "asiatic". That faux pax plus your bordering-on-racist comment about the judge's ethnicity (as if a Vietnamese-American judge should not be permitted to preside over a case involving a black defendant), makes it pretty clear that (a) you're just posing as an Asian to make it look like your criticism of the judge has more merit (it doesn't) and (b) your ridiculous comment that you're not here to "stir animosity" is just that: ridiculous. Maybe you should go back to grammar school, you ignorant fool.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 4:51 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is my Vista machine, Walter E. Wallis is my XP machine. On my TRSDOS machine I am [was] oldgene. On my AN/GRC9 I was UU2, on my SCR300 I was ditchdigger and on the EE8 I was Inspire 28.


Posted by KATIE, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 3, 2008 at 11:22 pm

(Whoever wrote this article needs spell check and grammar check...just an FYI).

I feel really aweful for this girl. This guy is a complete psychopath. Totally gross. I really hope that he gets life plus 12 years and never walks any of these streets again. Ewe. His girlfriend also needs a wake up call for dating such a horrible loser and not noticing that there was something really wrong with this sicko.


Again, I am so sorry that this girl had to go through this horrific assult and I feel aweful that she has to testify against this horrible creep in court. However, I am extremely relieved that this loser did not kill her. What if he had? Would we have ever found him? That is such a scary thought.



Posted by r, a resident of Monroe Park
on Apr 4, 2008 at 3:31 pm

who gives a white person the right to claim they know who is ''asian '' or any race. or any african american to judge who someone is, the fact IS , that the usa promotes the discrimination of anyone the deem is not ''the right race'' ,a comment i heard a WHITE person say as they realized that positions of ''authority'' are racial. btw , ive NEVER seen an african american ''judge'' anywhere except the media. ive attended many court dates and rarely sen african judge throughout many decades...


Posted by mary, a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 4, 2008 at 3:41 pm



Clarence Thomas (born June 23, 1948) is an American jurist and has been an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States since 1991. He is the second African American to serve on the nation's highest court, after Justice Thurgood Marshall. Appointed by Republican George H.W. Bush, Thomas's career in the Supreme Court has seen him take a conservative approach to cases while adhering to the postulates of originalism.

I am troubled that some will try to make this trial an OJ repeat


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2008 at 6:01 am

The US has equality under the law now, and has had that equality for years. The differences that still exist are cultural.


Posted by Chris, a resident of another community
on Apr 7, 2008 at 10:50 am

What does all this discussion of race and general societal discrimination have to do with this case?? It's irrelevant. Let's not forget the facts here: (1) Todd confessed to police about his attack on the girl after he was arrested and his account matched the victim's account of what happened; (2) the police found an earring belonging to the girl in Todd's car so clearly she was in his car at one point; (3) the attack was brutal and without any provocation--he choked an innocent teenager, slammed her head into the ground and sexually assaulted her. Those are the only facts that matter. So please shut up about all the inane comments about the judge's ethnicity or whether this case is supposed to be a reflection of social and moral justice of the entire country. This is a criminal case involving a vicious attack by a dangerous man on an innocent teenager.


Posted by mary, a resident of Hoover School
on Apr 7, 2008 at 3:36 pm




Well remember OJ got away with double murder in the face of DNA evidence.

That LA was so intimidated by the Rodney King riots probably ha something to do with it.

The fact that this case in PA is going to trial worries me because the defense and/or sympathizers will inject race and the threat of riots because it has worked before.



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