Local News

Tuesday, Jan 14 2014 05:43 PM

Alleged rapist's attempt to change venue deferred

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    By Courtesy Kern County Sheriff's Office

    Billy Ray Johnson Jr.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A motion for a change of venue in the case of a man accused of a series of east Bakersfield rapes was deferred Tuesday until his May trial date.

In the interim, Billy Ray Johnson Jr., 33, will remain in jail on $5 million bail. He's charged with 21 felonies, including five counts of rape.

Johnson's attorney, Deputy Public Defender Paul Cadman, said later Tuesday that law enforcement arrested the wrong person, and that police had looked at numerous possible suspects. Cadman questioned whether sex crimes in the area of the attacks have stopped since Johnson's arrest.

Supervising Deputy District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer said the rapes stopped when Bakersfield police and Kern County sheriff's deputies formed a joint task force that patrolled the area at all hours and blanketed the community with fliers about the assaults. She said there have been no rapes with the same method allegedly used by Johnson, which included breaking in and tying up his victims, since he's been in custody.

Zimmer said law enforcement followed up on several leads and persons of interest, but DNA evidence linked Johnson to the rapes. The assaults occurred July 1, July 18, Aug. 1 and Aug. 19 and involved five victims.

Two rapes occurred in the 2900 block of Virginia Avenue. The other rapes were reported in the 200 block of Quantico Avenue and the 4300 block of Columbus Street.

Johnson has been in custody since being arrested on a weapons charge Oct. 14. It's alleged Johnson fired a gun into the air as a show of power on the part of the Country Boy Crips, a criminal street gang.

Johnson's trial on the rape charges is scheduled to begin May 12.

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