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Woman kidnapped in Palo Alto, sexually assaulted

Original post made on May 23, 2010

Palo Alto and Santa Clara police are seeking a man who climbed into a woman's SUV on as she was driving on El Camino Real in Palo Alto early Saturday morning, forced her to drive to Santa Clara and sexually assaulted her, police reported.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Sunday, May 23, 2010, 7:59 AM

Comments (42)

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Posted by Ms. M
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2010 at 9:03 am

Two disturbing things in this story:

1 1600 block of El camino real in Palo Alto: right by the fields at Stanford, according to Google maps - supposedly a good neighborhood?

2. no description of suspect: OK..this woman was forced to DRIVE THIS GUY to Santa Clara, from Palo Alto...in that time she couldn't provide height, weight, voice, race, hair..nothing? THIS SOUNDS FISHY.

Anyone else have any info on this?


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Posted by crime happens
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2010 at 9:28 am

Crime happens even in "good neighborhoods". The Stanford fields are real quiet after dark.

The cops may not want to sound an alarm about a generic-looking white guy. Not enough information to help identify the rapist.


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Posted by LOL
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 23, 2010 at 9:36 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by kdc
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

OK- sounds like this happened in the wee hours of the morning and she was alone...not good. Ladies, no matter what time of the day or night it is, you should lock your car doors when you get in your vehicle.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

Most newwer cars lock automatically, I think Mercedes locks once the car hits about 3 mph or so. Either her lock was broken, she had the window down or she let the person in. Still no excuse for an assault, but in addition to locking your cars, be careful who you let in it.

Crazy things happen - everyone should lock their car as soon as they get in.


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Posted by cars
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 23, 2010 at 10:46 am

Its 5mph+ and all vehicles mid 90s and up will lock while moving, its a highway safety thing. There is alot more to this story then we are getting.


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Posted by Myhometoo
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 23, 2010 at 11:19 am

The police had two lanes of El Camino cordoned off on Saturday afternoon, probably looking for evidence and causing major traffic delays. I hope they found something that catches the perpetrator and that this incident is not as fishy as it sounds.


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Posted by Confused
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

You people really do live in a bubble. Do you really think the police are going to give us the whole story while working an investigation? Let them do their job, which they have already proven by catching Kolotto, Burpee, Smith.....need I go on? It's because of them this is a safe place to live.


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Posted by Ms. M
a resident of College Terrace
on May 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm

One other point, made my instructors in women's self defense classes that I've taken, is to NOT under ANY circumstances drive anywhere with an attacker. They do this on purpose b/c they can do whatever they want in a location of their choice - where they have control.

It may seem impossible, but the best thing is to fight/get out of the car and make as much noise as possible. And RUN if you can.


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Posted by No description at all???
a resident of Barron Park
on May 23, 2010 at 3:58 pm

I find it odd that there is no description at all - just "a man"? It's tiring that there are reports in the newspapers with just "a man" and not even mentioning the skin color. It may be hard to identify a particular race - but, it's ridiculous to say "a man". It is a white man? A black man? Asian? Mexican? Older? Younger? Middle aged? What a joke to say "a man". How does that help anyone?


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Clearly, we are missing a chunk of the story. The beginning says that she was driving on El Camino; the ending requests information from any witnesses who saw her parked on El Camino. So, which was it, parked or driving?

Unless someone was holding a gun to your head, wouldn't you jump out of the car at the first red light?

There isn't enough information here to make it newsworthy.


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Posted by CitizenJQP
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2010 at 11:56 pm

It's newsworthy enough to remind us all be alert, lock up, and not be fooled into thinking that we are safe just because we are in an affluent location. Also,I refuse to blame a victim even if I don't know the facts. God forbid I should ever face a situation like this I would hope and pray to get out of it alive as she did. None of us has the right to question what a person does when they are forced into survival mode.


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Posted by concerned resident
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

Affluent location?? folks at their best, being so judgmental!!

Let us pray for the victim that she can put this behind her soon, and , let us support law enforcement to capture the culprit.

God Bless.


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Posted by PAltan
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 24, 2010 at 9:20 am

How can the public help if we do not have enough information?


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Posted by don't blame the victim!
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2010 at 9:59 am

Come on folks, give the victim the benefit of the doubt unless the police say otherwise. The police are asking for people who directly witnessed incidents at 2 specific times and locations. If you cannot help because you were not there, then don't whine about it.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 24, 2010 at 11:08 am

Of course the cops aren't going to release every detail. Like the television news said last night, this man is the predator. The survivor is NOT to blame. Rape happens everywhere, in areas affluent, working class and the slums, out in the country, in the city and in the suburbs. Since many sexual assaults and rapes go unreported, it's good that this one did, so people can be more careful, any witnesses can come forward and with some luck the perpetrator will be caught and prosecuted.

I hope that the survivor is receiving enough support and care. She and her loved ones are in my prayers.


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Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2010 at 11:17 am

When I got my newer car, selling my advanced age one to a co-worker who needed one with better gas mileage, I was not used to the automatic locks and jumped when they activated when I accelerated. Then I became grateful, especially when driving in a somewhat questionable neighborhood, knowing I didn't have to remember the locks.

I'm sorry that for whatever reason this woman was unable to keep the man out of her car. I'm so sorry this happened, and I can imaging how traumatized she must be. I hope that a good support system is now in place to help her heal.


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2010 at 11:49 am

Male, thin, and height really doesn't help much.
Any other clues? Like Race maybe ?


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Posted by Chrisc
a resident of College Terrace
on May 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I live a few blocks from where this happened, and I was shocked like everybody else. I've been lax about locking my car, but I do think it's always locked at night when I'm driving. BTW -- I have a 1999 Passat and the locks do not lock automatically. Frankly, I do not like that feature. It's very dark along that stretch. I can see somebody hiding out and then jumping in a stopped car. I'm glad they put this story out to remind us to all be more careful.


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Posted by Paul
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2010 at 5:56 pm

How would giving race information help at this point? It's possible police are withholding that to enable them to better validate reported sightings. Plus as someone already said - suppose they said Caucasian? Does that make all Caucasians suspects? Thin, 5'8" to 6', 20's to 30's. Without more details, skin color is not helpful.


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Posted by Been there... only in SFO
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm

OK. I've lived around here most of my life. I'm SO sorry. When I was young and coming home from San Francisco, I stopped at a red light and a male tried to open my car door from the passenger's side (I was alone and it was probably after 1 a.m.). There were no other cars nearby. I stepped on the gas and ran the red light as soon as I realized what was happening and luckily escaped. It's hard to remember to do it, but locked car doors are a good thing. I hope they catch the guy before it happens again. I sometimes walk after dark on campus after an event. Scarey! I'm so sorry for the victim.


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Posted by mutti
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on May 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm

I don't like the auto-lock feature, so have turned it off in the last 3 cars I've owned. Car locked at the car-wash with the keys inside is a BIG problem!!


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Posted by 6504ever
a resident of Stanford
on May 24, 2010 at 9:44 pm

I drove by the scene on Saturday around noon where the police had 3 lanes roped off. There was broken glass and a pair of high heels on the street right near the curb, which suggests that he broke a window to get in.


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Posted by midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on May 24, 2010 at 10:50 pm

I agree with the first comment - seems a bit fishy, and lots of info missing. Not that hard to come up with the color skin of the suspect, esp if she's able to figure out it's 1) a "he" 2) height approx, and that 3) he's "thin!" Unless he was wrapped head to toe and wore sunglasses?

At 1:30 am is not a safe time on any night. Plus, how would he have entered her SUV if she was already driving? Most cars auto-lock once in movement, even if stopped.

Then four hours later, ... she flags some motorists...


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Posted by Daniel
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2010 at 7:14 am

Violence against women is a big problem in our society but this particular story sounds so fishy and implausible that it makes me wonder. Call me a skeptic.


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Posted by don't blame the victim
a resident of College Terrace
on May 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

This story does not sound fishy to me. The cops have said they are intentionally withholding some information to help them prosecute later. Let the cops do their job. And especially DO NOT BLAME THE VICTIM!


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Posted by Anon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 25, 2010 at 11:33 am

Most cars autolock? ... where do people get this idea?

Perhaps many or most new cars autolock, but my cars does not autolock and it is not that old and I would venture to say that most cars do not autolock. And who is to say that this woman was driving a newer car? And what difference does it make anyway?

Perhaps we are not getting the whole story, and I hope enough detail can be released in time to be useful on apprehension of someone who would commit a crime like that.

Stop making unwarranted assumptions about things. It almost sounds like blaming the victim for not locking her doors, or for being unable to scared to run away.

It is a good idea to lock one's car doors when driving, but sometimes even I forget the state of my car doors at times thought usually very attentive to locking my car.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 25, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Years ago, I was at the stoplight on Alma and El Camino, heading home to Menlo. It was between 11pm-12am. An older man in a truck saw me alone and swung his truck up and around the front of my vehicle, essentially blocking me in. I can still recall the absolute horror, the pounding fear and the surge of adrenaline. I hurriedly backed my car up and went around him, turning left against the red. I went straight to PAPD on Forest, watching to see if he followed. I only had his description and his vehicle's description, no plate. He was never found. I look back on that time and still have a hard time believing what his intentions might have been.

Was I in an affluent area? Yes. Was I doing anything wrong? No. Was I to blame in any way? Again, no.

Stop blaming the victim, who is now clearly a survivor! We don't know if the guy threatened her w/a gun, or broke in or what. But if she's not out there kidnapping and raping others, she's not the bad guy.

Sheesh! The full details are none of our business. The cops are keeping certain details quiet for a reason. Trust that.


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Posted by big gouda
a resident of Barron Park
on May 25, 2010 at 3:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Downtown North
on May 25, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Enough sanctimonious blathering. I don't see anyone blaming the victim; the annoyance is directed toward the newspaper for doing such a shoddy job of reporting. The free daily tabloids have -- with the same amount of information -- been able to write complete, internally consistent stories.

My car is new and it does not autolock. Most cars I've ridden in do not autolock. And there are good reasons not to lock your car. If you are in an accident, it's much easier and safer for someone to open your car door to get you out than to break the glass.


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Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 25, 2010 at 3:52 pm

No one is blaming the victim and this is a wake up call to those who do not lock their doors. But the paper reported she was driving a Mercedes SUV and they automatically lock.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 25, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Skeptic - you're the one who is being sanctimonious. Plenty of posters were blaming the victim w/their assumptions that there was something fishy about the story. Even if her behavior and lifestyle were less than stellar, she is not to blame. And of course the locking doors aspect is also based on assumptions due to the car she was driving.


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Posted by Sanity Checker
a resident of College Terrace
on May 26, 2010 at 8:00 am

It doesn't seem to me that most posters are blaming the victim as much as they are trying to get more information and share views on how we can ALL better protect ourselves.

The police and/or media are not sharing all the info they have. Some are speculating on the reasons behind this. Did the car auto-lock or not (almost definitely did as I believe all versions/years of Mercedes SUV do, unless manually disengaged)? Did she let the guy in? What was she doing out at 1:30am? Let's not waste too much time speculating. Generally speaking the police do their job pretty well. Let's not focus too much on details that probably won't help anybody.

What we should be focusing on is how to keep ourselves out of trouble and, if trouble finds us, how to get out of it as quickly and safely as possible. Folks- If you haven't already spent many years taking classes in some form of martial arts, stop putting it off and start now. You can never be too prepared for all the various things that might happen.


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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 9:48 am

Asking what she was doing out at 11:30am isn't relevant. It's part of blame the victim. She could've been doing anything from coming back from driving someone to the ER to leaving a bar, from grocery shopping to late night babysitting, from stripping for a bachelor party to heading to Jack in the Box for late snack.

The guy could be her ex-husband, an acquaintance, a total stranger, her best friend's brother or the bagger at the grocery store. It's LEGAL for people, including adult women, to be out at 1:30am.

Godspeed her recovery.


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Posted by Hmm - oops meant 1:30am
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

And adult women are also allowed out alone at 11:30am ;-) at least here in the US.


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Posted by anon
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on May 26, 2010 at 10:22 am

re a woman being out at 1:30 am .. remember Golda Meir's retort?

"When Israel was experiencing an epidemic of violent rapes and someone at a cabinet meeting suggested women be put under curfew until the rapists were caught, Meir shot back, "Men are committing the rapes. Let them be put under curfew."


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Posted by robit noops
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm

I live a few blocks from this location and it does get a fair amount of problems. The Jack in the Box a few blocks away attracts drunks at late hours, the athletic fields are under renovation so they are not as visible as they used to be, there are bus stops nearby so people not from the area might linger nearby, and cars for sale tend to be parked the length of that part of El Camino.
Typical crime in this neighborhood is theft, burglary, alot of car break ins. Assaults are usually reported on Alma. My neighbor has teenagers who seem to be into drinking and being loud at late hours.
Was she originally driving northbound or southbound? That would hint if the culprit was hiding in the empty fields or in the residential strip?


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Posted by Midtowner
a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 9:31 am

Apparently someone has been arrested in the case.

Web Link


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Posted by good job PAPD
a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 9:34 am

Good job PAPD catching the suspect so quickly. Despite all the whining in this forum, the police do seem to know what they are doing.


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Posted by Tiffany
a resident of Midtown
on May 27, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I hope all the doubters who said her story was fishy, how her car must auto-lock, etc. reflect on how the victim and her family might have felt reading your comments. She may very well be so traumatized that she can't describe most of what happened or what she saw. Trauma affects everyone differently.


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Posted by skeptic
a resident of Downtown North
on May 27, 2010 at 4:49 pm

The questions had to do with the shoddy reporting, not the victim's story.


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Posted by DadToThree
a resident of Professorville
on May 27, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I disagree, Skeptic. Tiffany expressed something some people in this thread also agreed with which was the situation did not warrant the doubt cast on the victim simply based on the very few, fuzzy details provided. This may be the paper and writer's fault but these people still made statements based on the few facts they new. You are trying to divert the point she and others are making with flippant remarks.

As Hmmm said, you are being sanctimonious. Before you tell others they are blathering sanctimoniously or need to get over themselves, go reflect on how you are sanctimoniously dismissing other people's views and figure out who is the one who has something to get over.


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