Valentino Manofo Tafilele pleads guilty to kidnapping, rape

Tafilele to be sentenced in January

SAN DIEGO - A South Bay electrician who pulled a gun on a woman at a City Heights bus stop before kidnapping and raping her pleaded guilty Friday to sexual assault and robbery charges.

Valentino Manofo Tafilele will be sentenced on Jan. 17 to 30 years to life in prison.

Tafilele, 35, pleaded guilty on the day his preliminary hearing was to go forward.

"He fully confessed to the crime when he was arrested," said Gretchen von Helms, Tafilele's attorney.

Tafilele rarely looked up and cried during most of the 10-minute proceeding.

"He's a very religious person. He was extremely remorseful," said von Helms.

San Diego police pulled him over at about 4:45 a.m. July 10 as he drove his late-model Jeep Cherokee in the 3500 block of University Avenue, a block west of the scene of the kidnapping that occurred a week earlier, San Diego police sex crimes Lt. Chuck Kaye said.

Officers made the stop after noticing that the vehicle was similar to the one driven by the assailant and had a broken passenger's-side taillight, as described by the victim. They arrested him for being in possession of a loaded gun and a set of brass knuckles and took him to police headquarters for questioning, Kaye said.

The armed abduction happened about 4:30 a.m. July 3. The suspect forced the 35-year-old victim into a light-colored SUV parked in a nearby alley, then drove her to a secluded spot and raped her before setting her free, police said.

Detectives identified Tafilele, a National City resident who is married and has five children, as the perpetrator due to close matches with the woman's descriptions of the assailant, his vehicle and items inside it, according to Kaye.

After the proceedings, Tafilele sat with von Helms crying in his seat and whispered something to her.

"He said, 'I pray for her family. I don't understand why I did this. It's an awful, horrible thing to do,'" said von Helms.

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