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By JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A suspect accused of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl in broad daylight in her southeast Bakersfield yard remained at large Tuesday evening in a case that has shocked local residents.
A man who lives near where the assault occurred was so shaken that Tuesday he was finishing work on a fence he’d started putting up a while back. Luis Valenzuela, the father of two daughters, called his father-in-law over to help him with the fence because after the assault he wanted it up as soon as possible.
“It’s horrible that there are animals in our community like that,” Valenzuela said of the suspect.
Kern County sheriff’s spokesman Ray Pruitt said the victim was grabbed about 3 p.m. Monday as she played in her yard near Buckley Avenue and Garber Way. The man forced the girl to an isolated area of the side of the yard and sexually assaulted her.
Pruitt said someone inside the home saw what was happening and notified an adult. The suspect was seen running from the area by at least two family members of the girl, and several witnesses saw the suspect in the area before the assault took place.
The girl was taken to a hospital for treatment of non-lifethreatening injuries, Pruitt said. The girl was assaulted in a fairly visible area.
“It’s rare where you have a case where a suspect commits a crime so brazenly, and it does give us cause for concern because this suspect committed a crime in broad daylight in an area that could be easily viewed by passersby,” Pruitt said.
Several area residents were stunned by what had happened.
David Contreras, 23, said he’d seen patrol vehicles passing through the area since Monday. There have been shootings in the area in the recent past, and Contreras said he didn’t know until Tuesday that the heightened law enforcement presence was the result of the rape of a young girl.
“I don’t even want to think about something like that,” he said.
Debbie Cochran said it’s sickening that someone would hurt a young girl. She said she’s always outside with her children, and is currently putting up a fence.
Angie Harrison, who lives with Cochran, said they’ve never had problems in the area and she was shocked the assault happened near their house.
“I hope they catch the SOB,” she said.
The suspect may be a transient and frequent the Rexland Acres area, and Pruitt said several people said they’ve seen him in the area pushing shopping carts and collecting cans. He might be named “Eric” or “Eddie.”
The sheriff’s department described the suspect as Hispanic, in his 30s, 5’10”, weighing 250 pounds. He has black hair cut short. He was last seen wearing a blue shirt, baggy denim shorts, white socks and gray Van’s style shoes.
“We’re doing everything we can at this point to locate this suspect and take him into custody as soon as possible,” Pruitt said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s department at 861-3110 or Secret Witness at 322-4040. Anonymous text tips can be sent to TIP411 (847411). Type “KCSO” prior to the message.