Jury selection got underway Monday for the trial of a 30-year-old probationer accused of attempting to abduct two young boys at a park playground in Lake Elsinore.
Marcus Joseph DeWitt of Lake Elsinore is charged with kidnapping to commit rape, attempted kidnapping to commit rape and committing lewd acts on a child for the alleged offenses at Rosetta Canyon Sports Park in the 44400 block of Ardenwood Way.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz heard pretrial motions in the case Friday and ordered multiple panels of prospective jurors to the Riverside Hall of Justice Monday morning for screening as to their availability and qualifications. Jury selection is expected to take about three days.
According to sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Fredericks, DeWitt entered the park about 11:30 a.m. last March 11 and walked into the playground, where he allegedly approached a 3-year-old boy and grabbed him by the arm as the toddler played inside a piece of playground equipment. He was unable to pick up the boy and turned his attention to a nearby 4-year-old, investigators and prosecutors allege.
DeWitt allegedly scooped up that boy and tried to flee, but “the victim’s parents and other family members observed the abduction and were able to catch DeWitt and wrestle the child out of his grasp,” the sergeant said.
Fredericks alleged that the 6-foot-4, 275-pound defendant attempted to continue running but was pulled down by a male relative of the youngster. Additional witnesses helped hold DeWitt until deputies reached the scene and took him into custody without a struggle.
No one was injured, including the children, Fredericks said.
According to court records, DeWitt has prior misdemeanor convictions for lewd and lascivious conduct, obstruction of justice, violating a court restraining order and vandalism.
The defendant is being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.