An Irvine man accused of attacking a 75-year-old neighbor without provocation while she was walking her dog is scheduled to be arraigned Friday.
Craig Andrew Ledbetter, 51, who was allegedly naked while assaulting his neighbor, will be asked how he pleads to a charge of attempted murder, with sentence-enhancing allegations of premeditation and deliberation, and personal injury to a victim 70 or older. He also faces felony charges of inflicting injury on an elder adult and battery with serious bodily injury, and misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals and resisting arrest.
The defendant could face up to 12 years to life in prison if convicted, according to Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Duke.
Ledbetter, who’s being held in lieu of $50,000 bail, had been scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at the Central Jail in Santa Ana, but the proceeding was postponed until today for unspecified medical reasons.
Police responded to a call of a “man acting strangely on Rockwood Street” about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Irvine police Lt. Bill Whalen. Officers found the suspect naked and “swinging a stick aggressively,” he said, adding that they ultimately had to subdue Ledbetter with a stun gun.
The victim, who remains hospitalized, lives several houses away from the suspect. Her son-in-law, Neil Fitzsimons, said the family moved to the neighborhood three months ago. He told ABC7 the suspect had been yelling expletives just before his mother-in-law, Sara Hurtado, was attacked from behind and knocked to the ground.
Her attacker “punched her repeatedly in the chest, knocked her to the ground, apparently sat on top of her naked,” Fitzsimons said Wednesday. “Her eyes are swollen shut. She can’t see; she’s essentially blind at the moment.”
The victim was treated for bleeding in the brain, according to Roxi Fyad of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. She also suffered a dislocated left arm and eye injuries, Fyad said.
The suspect allegedly took the woman’s black toy poodle and swung the dog over his shoulder, Fyad said. The animal escaped and was found unharmed late Tuesday night and was returned to the family.
The victim, who reportedly splits her time between her native Peru and California, told KCAL9 from her hospital bed that she had feared for her life.
Whalen said officers had stopped Ledbetter some hours before the attack.
“He had been acting bizarrely, but the officers … did not have justification to take him into custody at that point,” he said, adding that police do not believe drugs or alcohol were factors in the attack.
Neighbors said Ledbetter lives with his two children. His ex-wife answered the door Wednesday and told ABC7 that he’d been acting strange the past few days.
“I want him to get help,” she said. “I don’t want him to come back.”
—City News Service
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