A 37-year-old man already serving time in Florida for pulling multiple women into vans to attack them was convicted Thursday of attempting to kidnap and sexually assault three women in or near a Westminster park, a prosecutor said Thursday.
Arnold Eduardo Martinez — extradited from Florida in February — was convicted by a jury Wednesday and faces up to 28 years and eight months in prison when sentenced June 2, , according to Deputy District Attorney Lexie Elliott.
Early on July 18, 2008, Martinez drove a car to Sigler Park in Westminster, where he allegedly tried to drag a 21-year-old woman into his vehicle, Elliott said.
When she shouted for help and struggled to get away, Martinez fled, the prosecutor said.
About 4:30 a.m. on July 24, 2008, Martinez parked a car near the park, where he grabbed a 58-year-old woman and tried to pull her into nearby bushes, Elliott said. Martinez punched her multiple times before she managed to get away, the prosecutor said.
Just before 5 a.m. on Jan. 14, 2009, Martinez tried to abduct a 44-year- old woman who was walking to church near Sigler Park, Elliott said. When she got out of his car, he caught up to her and dragged her into some nearby bushes, the prosecutor said.
When the woman screamed for help and tried to resist, her attacker punched her and slammed her head into the ground, Elliott said.
The defendant ran away after attempting to sexually assault her, Elliott said.
Shortly after composite sketches of a suspect in the three crimes were passed around the neighborhood, Martinez left for Florida, where he was charged with pulling multiple women into a van and attacking them in June and July 2010, Elliott said.
Martinez pleaded guilty to kidnapping and sexual battery in Duval County, Florida, and was sentenced to 20 years in state prison in July 2011, Elliott said. He had to give authorities a DNA sample, which was entered into a national database, she said.
Orange County sheriff’s lab investigators got a match in September 2011 relating to the attacks in Westminster, Elliott said.
Because Martinez was using a phony name at the time of his conviction, an innocent man was arrested in 2012 for the Westminster attacks, but he was later cleared, Elliott said. The identity theft victim, however, recently still had to battle to clear his name in Florida, she said.
Authorities were able to figure out Martinez’s true identity through a 2006 misdemeanor conviction, Elliott said.
A sheriff’s lab investigator initially made a DNA match to the third victim in Westminster, but figured he had two other cases that matched the profile so did a little more digging and allegedly linked Martinez to the two other cases, Elliott said.
Martinez was convicted of three counts of assault with the intent to commit a sex offense, two counts of kidnapping to commit a sex offense, and one count each of attempted kidnapping to commit a sex offense, battery with serious bodily injury and false personation — all felonies.
The jury also found true sentence-enhancing allegations of great bodily injury and great bodily injury to a sexual assault victim.
His attorney, Kelly Rozek, argued that authorities got the wrong person and that prosecutors could not prove the assaults in Westminster were sexually motivated. Rozek also argued the DNA evidence was flawed.
Two of the victims from the Florida cases testified in this trial, Elliott said.
— Wire reports