Rape-case victim describes escape from death

In case against alleged rapist Lionel Blanks, woman says attack and abduction began in Palo Alto after she became lost

From the little bit she could see from under her blindfold, the victim in a brutal 2010 rape and attempted-murder case that began in Palo Alto said she saw blood cascade from every part of her body on the night she was allegedly attacked by Lionel Blanks Jr. of Santa Clara.

"Ju Doe," as she was called in court, appeared at Blanks' preliminary hearing Wednesday morning (May 11) in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.

She testified she only survived the attack because she was able to fake her death while being strangled in a school field early on the morning of May 22, 2010.

"I felt like I probably have four breaths in me, and I'm gone. I inhaled really slowly and exhaled slowly to play dead," said Doe, a 20-something Asian woman with long, dark hair.

Doe said she was not familiar with Palo Alto when she joined two girlfriends for drinks at a bar on May 21. Earlier that afternoon, she had been in Saratoga and had drunk two glasses of wine at a food tasting for her best friend's upcoming wedding.

In Palo Alto nearly four hours later, she had two drinks and a shot of Jack Daniels with her friends.

At about 1 a.m., she drove her friends to their car and proceeded to drive home, but she became lost and took a circuitous route through side streets, she testified.

A Palo Alto police officer stopped her on suspicion of drunk driving when he observed her car moving erratically. Doe said she was attempting to download an application on her GPS device, she said.

The officer let her go without charging her after she passed a drunk-driving field test, she said.

After her navigation device reset, Doe followed its directions, but that led her to road construction on the Stanford campus, and she ended up "going in circles" until she reached El Camino Real.

Feeling tired, she parked her SUV near a field under a street lamp and climbed into the passenger seat to nap, Doe said. She didn't know how long she had been asleep, but she did not think it had been very long before she awoke to a cold breeze and felt sharp things on the seat as she shifted.

Someone began shouting, she said. "Before I had time to reply, I was in a choke hold."

Doe testified she was yanked from the car and thrown to the ground.

"I could see my feet. My head started taking blows to the concrete. I realized, 'Oh my gosh -- I'm not dreaming anymore,'" she said.

"I realized I felt blood dripping down from my head down my cheek and into my mouth. Someone was still shouting. The voice said, 'You better not scream. Keep quiet. Do what you're told.' The blows were so hard, my ears would only get bits and pieces," she said.

Slipping in and out of consciousness, Doe said she was blindfolded and her wrists were bound together. She was thrown into the back floor of her car, and the man drove to the freeway.

At first, the man's questions seemed almost friendly.

"He commented he has two daughters," she recalled him as saying. Hoping to gain sympathy, she lied and said she had a daughter, too, she said.

"Have to get home to my daughter," she said.

But the questions and demands for immediate responses grew increasingly harsh. At times, he threatened to kill her, she said.

Throughout the night, whenever she was slow to respond to his questions, the man would reach back and grope her, she said.

"Why are you wearing a thong? Are you a freak?" the man allegedly demanded.

The man drove off the freeway onto a gravel road for what seemed like 15 minutes, she said. He exited the car, and Doe said she could hear him wiping down the doors and the entire surface of the car inside and out.

He drove on and then entered a paved road. Doe was dragged in her bare feet from the vehicle. Her knees bled and hurt so bad that she had trouble walking, where the glass from the broken car window and the rough pavement had ground in, she said.

But her faltering was met with only more blows to both sides of her head, including her temples and jaw, she said.

The man threw her to the ground and tore off her clothing. Doe said she struggled, knowing what was to come, her ears were ringing from the blows.

He turned her onto her stomach and raped her, she said.

"I had to give in. I thought I was going to die. I was so out of it that if I were to touch anything, I couldn't feel it anymore," she said.

He flipped her onto her back again and then squeezed hard around her neck with both hands, she said. He squeezed harder.

"He's not going to let go; he's going to snap my neck," Doe said she thought. That's when she faked being dead.

Doe said she heard the man rise and run away, and she could hear the keys to her car jingling in his pocket.

Still blindfolded, she rose and ran in the opposite direction.

"The only clothing I had is the blindfold on my head," she recalled.

Doe said she managed to work her hands free from the bindings and removed the blindfold. In the road, a car passed by. The driver did not stop. Doe saw a dark figure watching her from about 100 yards away. He wore black clothing with white lettering on the shirt, she said.

This time, she positioned herself in the middle of the road in the direct path of an approaching car and waved. She used the blindfold to cover her nakedness, she said.

Doe was cross examined by Deputy Public Defender Gilda Valeros, who asked Doe about a breakup with a former boyfriend in 2009. Valeros also asked Doe to confirm that she knew a former sex offender, from whom she had requested a referral for a bartending job. Doe said she did.

Valeros questioned if, at the beginning of her testimony, Doe had said she heard voices shouting rather than one voice. Doe clarified that she only heard one voice.

Valeros also questioned how Doe knew her assailant was black if she was blindfolded. Doe said she could tell by his voice and use of language. She also saw parts of his arms from edges beneath the blindfold, she said.

"As a bartender, have you heard young people in bars who have used Ebonics (a dialect used by some African-Americans) to emulate that slang but who are not African-Americans?" Valeros asked. Doe said she had.

Valeros also questioned how long Doe had been sleeping, citing the time periods between when Doe was stopped by the police, when she fell asleep and police records of the 911 call from the passerby at 5:20 a.m.

"From 2 a.m. to 3:30 or 4 a.m., you have no real account other than sleeping," Valeros said.

Prosecutor Erin West later said there is no way to determine the duration of the events.

Sexual Assault Response Team nurse Julia Pinero testified Doe had lacerations, abrasions and bruising on nearly every part of her body.

Pinero said Doe had injuries consistent with sexual trauma, but upon questioning by Valeros, she said she could not determine if the injuries were caused by forced or consensual intercourse.

Blanks waived his right to a continuous preliminary hearing. The court will reconvene May 16 with testimony from a DNA expert.

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Like this comment
Posted by victims should have rights, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

The victim isn't on trial here. Yet the second victimization proceeds. Courts can give defendants their rights without giving them the opportunity to revictimize in the name of "justice".

Like this comment
Posted by Relevant?
a resident of Stanford
on May 11, 2011 at 4:39 pm

"Doe was cross examined by Deputy Public Defender Gilda Valeros, who asked Doe about a breakup with a former boyfriend in 2009. Valeros also asked Doe to confirm that she knew a former sex offender, from whom she had requested a referral for a bartending job. Doe said she did. "

The judge allowed this line of questioning? What on earth does this have to do with the case? I agree with "victims should have rights, too"; we don't need another victimization.

Like this comment
Posted by JW
a resident of Mountain View
on May 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

That makes me sick to read.

It is odd that they seem to be poking holes in her story. I'm not sure anyone could fathom how long they were beaten for when they were in and out of consciousness, so the poking holes in her timeline doesn't feel right.

Like this comment
Posted by don't blame the victim!
a resident of Midtown
on May 11, 2011 at 5:13 pm

I remember when this crime was first reported in the local media. Comments on PaloAltoOnline were blaming the victim for napping in her car in a shady part of town. I am glad that people are more sympathetic now. No one deserved what happened to her.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 11, 2011 at 7:08 pm

I agree w/don't blame the victim! - some of the comments were abhorrent when this occurred.

Many, many women have been sexually assaulted, not all of them kidnapped and horribly beaten.

I am so sorry that this woman went through this- it is undeservedly heartbreaking and depraved. I am so relieved that she survived. I wish her the deepest blessings of love, support and justice in recovering from this life-threatening ordeal.

Like this comment
Posted by Christy
a resident of Menlo Park
on May 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

My heart breaks for this woman. I cannot imagine the terror of her ordeal and I am sure her emotional trauma is much more significant than any physical trauma sustained. It sickens me that she is essentially being put on trial here...she is the victim of a brutal attack. May that scum who did this to her rot away in a cold dark cell.

Like this comment
Posted by some guy
a resident of another community
on May 11, 2011 at 9:18 pm

"Ju Doe"? Is that a typo?

Like this comment
Posted by wow
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2011 at 2:29 am

She was drunk and since when do PA PD allow drunk people to go...isnt it once they are pulled over and suspected of drinking, enough...

they still should lock-up this animal..

Like this comment
Posted by victims should have rights, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

The accused should have the right to defend themselves in a court of law, but not to victimize someone else in a new forum. If the"defense" involves an accusation leveled at someone else, that person should have rights too, particularly if they are the victim of the crime at issue.

If defense wants to make an accusation, they should have to bring it before the judge first and the victim's lawyer should have a right to defend the victim -- and there should be a presumption of innocence of the victim unless proven guilty -- the courtroom shouldn't be a place where a potential criminal (or their lawyers) are allowed to finish off the victim.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2011 at 10:23 am

Wow, how do you know she was drunk? She passed a field sobriety test. How disturbing to think a DUI rap would've been better for her than this. Maybe she'd just been a bit buzzed earlier, got lost & was much more sober when she was pulled over. If she was really fiddling w/her GPS device, that's enough of course to cause erratic driving.

It sounds like this psycho was equipped w/a rape kit and looking for someone to use it on - truly what a predator would do.
Yes, they are using "Ju" Doe as her identity because she's Asian. What's the purpose in distinguishing her that way? As a demonstration that she's likely a petite woman?

Like this comment
Posted by don't blame the victim!
a resident of Midtown
on May 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

The Mercury-News did not identify the ethnic background of the victim. Why does the Palo Alto Weekly feel the need to print that information? Would they have printed her race if she were Caucasian?

Like this comment
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on May 12, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

Ju is the woman's first name. She was identified in the court as "Ju Doe."

Like this comment
Posted by Sue Dremann
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on May 12, 2011 at 12:54 pm

Sue Dremann is a registered user.

The ethnic background of the victim was mentioned in the story as a descriptor. We agreed that we would do the same if she was Caucasian.

Like this comment
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Was this sensationalistic, gory and detailed description really necessary? Even minors read PaloAlto online. Use common sense, please.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I think the details of the story are important because so many people still are doubtful of a rape survivor's story & just like in this case when first reported, blame that survivor. This trump's the lack of control a parent has over what their minor children are reading. As the public who pays to prosecute these monsters, we also have a right to know what happens in our midst, which can be hard to believe as we make our way through our peaceful, suburban lives.

Ms. Dremann, thank you for explaining the usage of "Ju Doe."

Like this comment
Posted by JW
a resident of Mountain View
on May 12, 2011 at 3:11 pm

Someone said this wa a shady area of town (not sure if it was here or another paper). It's not. I mean, nowhere is "safe" alone at 3am, but wasn't it at El Camino and the street that the stanford graduate housing is on? There are hundreds of families with kids just less than a block away. It's not like she was on the side of 101.
This is something one would be hard-pressed to ever fully recover from.

Like this comment
Posted by neighbor
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 12, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Bottom line. NO PERSON, male or female of any race or ethnicity, should be subject to attacks. The perpetrator is guilty, no matter if the person subjected to the attack was drunk...or improperly clothed.

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 12, 2011 at 4:41 pm

These comments are impressively thoughtful and supportive of the survivor and it's good to read them all.

I was horrifically attacked some years ago. I still suffer from a back injury caused by my attacker. I don't wish the past nightmares, terror, fear, panic, PTSD or blind desire for survival on anyone. It has been a difficult journey but well worth it. What I went through was not nearly as bad as what this survivor endured, but I think I understand a bit of what she has had to recover from. In my recollection, there have been several terrible sexual assaults on women in the last half decade in Palo Alto, including this one, the student and the woman at home who I think was locked in a closet.

Part of why I live in EPA, honestly, is because it's a place where I can rent & have dogs. I pay a price for living in EPA, but ironically, I am quite safe in my home thanks to having dogs and close neighbors and a husband. I continue that safety at night by usually taking a dog w/me when I go out.

If you are a woman who has to go out at night, I urge you to take a dog w/you if you have one, or get one if you can. I don't mean to be a fear-monger and everyone's lifestyle and needs are different. However, personal safety is a priority and dogs are a big help!

Like this comment
Posted by Carry tear gas at all times
a resident of Meadow Park
on May 13, 2011 at 7:47 am

This is why I always have my teargas with me, in hand....took 2 near misses for me to finally understand that the only one who can protect me is ME.

Like this comment
Posted by WCPZ
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 15, 2011 at 9:11 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Like this comment
Posted by LOOK
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 16, 2011 at 1:30 am

since alcohol was in the picture for the victim it might pretty hard..

they still should put this guy away for a long time

Like this comment
Posted by Capricorn
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 23, 2011 at 9:28 pm

You know what the sad and sick thing about all this is...I met this fuckin' punk and one of my girl friends was dating him at the time. She introduced him to our circle and she is still standing by him saying he didn't do it.Open your eyes stupid ass D.N.A. I'm so sick to my stomach!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Sympathetic
a resident of another community
on May 20, 2012 at 12:24 am

Both will do life in a prison but one should do it behind bars. Both shall be forgiven but one should be forgotten. I feel sad for the true victims especially the people who loved and respected and trusted the one who committed this God-awful crime. It is true there is no innocent people in this world and we should not judge others but this type of case may prove otherwise. I would hate to be the Judge and Jury because to be forgiven you must first be willing to forgive. God Bless everyone!!!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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