A 32-year-old man choked a suicidal 16-year-old girl and then tried to rape her in a park in Orange, but she kicked him away and he left her for dead, a prosecutor argued Wednesday, but the defendant’s attorney said his client was actually trying to save the girl’s life.
Jonathan Lee Gregg is charged with attempted murder and assault of a minor with the intent to commit a sex offense, both felonies, and faces sentencing enhancements for attempted premeditated murder, inflicting great bodily injury on the victim and inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a sex offense.
Gregg is accused of attacking the girl on Jan. 24 at El Modena Park. The teen was found semi-conscious and nude at the park and was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
Authorities said she met Gregg through the Whisper app, which allows for anonymous messaging, as she requested help in taking her own life.
As the two exchanged messages discussing how to end her life, Gregg said first he needed to know what she looked like, Deputy District Attorney Jeffrey Boyd said in his closing argument. Gregg told the girl he would help if he found her attractive, Boyd said.
The night before the two met in person, cell phone records show he stood outside of her home, according to the prosecutor.
Gregg testified that he engaged in such conversations online to win the trust of suicidal people and claimed that he had saved the lives of eight people, Boyd said. But the prosecutor scoffed at that assertion, saying Gregg “accelerated” the teen’s suicide timeline from a week to right away.
Otherwise, Gregg told the girl, “you’ll lose your resolve,” according to Boyd.
The teen said she needed a “100% way to die,” Boyd said.
According to the prosecutor, the two initially drove to a freeway overpass in either Pomona or Pasadena, with the idea she would jump, but the girl had trouble getting onto the overpass. Gregg testified that he “heroically” prevented her from jumping, Boyd said.
Then the two drove to the park because it had a lake where she could be drowned, Boyd said.
While walking to a baseball diamond, he suddenly grabbed her from behind and began strangling her, Boyd told jurors. Then he “bashes her head several times” on the ground or against a wall, he said.
The victim said she recalled him groping her left breast and “spreading her legs” as he attempted to rape her, but she “summons all of her strength and kicked him off,” Boyd said.
Gregg choked the victim some more and left her there, according to the prosecutor.
“He thought she was dead when he left,” Boyd said.
When she was found an hour or so later she was still “slipping in and out of consciousness,” Boyd said.
“Her fear wasn’t dying,” Boyd said. “She wanted to commit suicide. Her fear was being raped.”
The next day when she was able to finally consent to a sex assault exam, authorities found Gregg’s sperm on her, Boyd said.
Gregg testified that he had masturbated in a tissue and left it on the seat of his car, and the teen must have sat on it, Boyd said.
But, the prosecutor argued, “If he had not intended to commit rape… why are her clothes removed? Why is he curious to know what she looks like the night before?”
A doctor who examined the girl said the petechial hemorrhage in her eyes was the worst she’d seen in her 23 years of medical practice, the prosecutor said.
Gregg’s attorney, Jacob DeGrave of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office, argued that his client often engaged in “dark” role-playing online.
“This case has become a tangled web of misleading allegations,” DeGrave argued.
The victim had suffered with depression and suicidal ideation going back to junior high school, DeGrave said.
“She began by cutting her ankles and wrists,” he told jurors.
“She sought out help online from multiple people” with her suicide after breaking up with her boyfriend, DeGrave said.
The defense attorney said the teen gave conflicting accounts to police and again during her testimony, DeGrave said.
She initially told police that Gregg “scammed me. He took my money and I’m still alive,”the attorney argued.
“She didn’t say he tried to rape me,” DeGrave said.
He said Gregg testified that he was “trying to gain her trust to help her,” and he denied hurting the teen.
If he intended to kill her he wouldn’t have taken her to a public place like a park, DeGrave argued.