Jan 3, 2023
A cargo airline pilot and Army veteran has been arrested in Alaska in connection with a series of violent attacks on women along hiking trails at a park in Aliso Viejo, California, according to authorities. The suspect has been tied to additional crimes in Riverside and San Diego Counties, and officials have indicated they believe he may have victimized numerous women.
According to an announcement from the Orange County District Attorney & Sheriff’s Department, Robert Daniel Yucas, 51, raped at least one woman and tried to rape two others after choking them unconscious and then dragging the victims off of a trail in Aliso Viejo’s Woodfield Park.
The following charges have been filed against Yucas:
Authorities said the series of sexual assaults allegedly committed by Yucas began in January 2020 and continued through at least August 2021. Investigators have identified three separate incidents where they believe Yucas was involved:
I. January 20, 2020: A 24-year-old woman was at Aliso Viejo’s Woodfield Park to skateboard when a man (eventually identified as Yucas) reportedly asked her for directions. As the woman pulled out her phone, Yucas is accused of suddenly grabbing her in a chokehold and dragging the victim into the bushes near a walking path. The woman lost consciousness in the attack and, upon regaining consciousness, discovered that she had been raped. Authorities were reportedly able to collect DNA evidence from the incident, but a match in the national database was not found.
II. April 2, 2020: A 32-year-old woman was running in Woodfield Park when a man (eventually identified as Yucas) grabbed her from behind and put her in a chokehold. Once again, Yucas is accused of dragging the woman into the bushes in an attempt to rape her – but in this particular incident the woman was reportedly able to fight him off. Authorities indicated DNA evidence was obtained in this attack.
III. August 28, 2021: A 41-year-old woman was in Woodfield Park when a man suddenly attacked her, placing the victim in a chokehold. The woman reportedly lost consciousness and woke up in the bushes next to a walking path to find her pants had been pulled down.
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Hoping to identify the sexual predator involved in the spree of attacks, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department released two composite drawings of the suspect.
During the investigation, detectives received an anonymous tip. Authorities have confirmed that on September 4, Yucas, a resident of Cathedral City in Riverside County, was identified as a suspect in a separate crime committed in San Diego. DNA collected as a result of that incident matched DNA from two of the Aliso Viejo attacks.
On Thursday, Yucas, who is a pilot for cargo airliner Kalitta Air, was arrested in Anchorage, Alaska, after a return flight from China. He is currently awaiting extradition back to California.
If convicted on all charges, Yucas faces a maximum sentence of 39 years to life plus 6 years in state prison.
At a press conference Monday, Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes expressed support for the survivors of the sexual assault incidents.
“The three victims in this case were doing things many of us do every day. But the suspect kidnapped these victims, placed them in chokeholds, sexually assaulted them, and changed their lives forever,” Barnes said.
Barnes also expressed gratitude to the various teams involved in the investigation and arrest of Yucas.
“Thank you to the Orange County Crime Lab, Orange County Crime Stoppers, the San Diego Police Department, and the Anchorage International Airport Police and Fire Department for their assistance in identifying and making this arrest. We all want to live in a neighborhood where we feel safe to do something as simple to take a walk. With this arrest, we have regained a small piece of that sense of safety.”
Barnes also indicated that detectives are continuing to follow-up on leads, including checking Yucas’ flight schedules and working with other agencies to locate any additional victims. Given Yucas’ position as a pilot and his frequent trips across the U.S. and around the globe, authorities believe there may be more survivors who have yet to be identified.
Authorities have accused Yucas of being a “serial rapist,” and are urging anyone with information related to a possible victim of a related sex crime to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Department Sexual Assault Unit at 714-647-7419.
Investigators also noted that Yucas lived in Aliso Viejo prior to moving to Riverside County’s Cathedral City, and he is known to spend time in San Diego County.
Yucas recently appeared in an interview with local KESQ News Channel 3 ahead of the September 11th anniversary, offering a perspective from a military veteran. An image from the interview was used at Monday’s press conference to provide the “best picture we have of him.” In the KESQ interview, Yucas said he “wouldn’t be the same person” he is today without his experiences in the military, and expressed support for those who lost loved ones during the national tragedy.
“It’s unimaginable to me what type of pain there must be for those who’ve lost folks who are really close to them – you can’t replace that,” Yucas states in the interview.
Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer noted the importance of the arrest at Monday’s press conference.
“Sexual predators do not stop until we stop them,” Spitzer said. “An entire community lived in fear that they would be the next victims to be grabbed off a trail, choked unconscious, and raped. The bravery of an anonymous tipster to come forward with information about this predator led to his capture and likely prevented additional women from being sexually assaulted. These women endured unimaginable horror at the hands of a stranger who hunted them like prey. Now that this sexual predator is behind bars, my job is to make sure he is held accountable for these heinous crimes to the fullest extent of the law. The way we prevent him from harming any more women is to keep him behind bars for the rest of his life,” he added.
Orange County Deputy District Attorney Raquel Cooper of the Sexual Assault Unit is reportedly prosecuting the case.
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