Balboa Park rape suspect pleads not guilty

Posted at 5:52 AM, May 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 22:14:28-04

An ex-con accused of repeatedly raping a woman during a 2 1/2-hour ordeal near Balboa Park and trying to kidnap another woman the same night pleaded not guilty to more than a dozen felony charges Wednesday and was ordered to remain in custody in lieu of $5 million bail.

Ismael Hernandez Jr., 27, is charged with 13 felonies, including four counts of forcible rape and three counts of forcible oral copulation, in connection with the crimes he allegedly committed Thursday night.

"This appeared to be a random attack where the defendant tried to kidnap a woman at knifepoint," Deputy District Attorney Judy Taschner told reporters after the defendant made his initial court appearance before Judge Charles Gill. "She managed to get away."

Taschner alleged that the Chula Vista man accosted a second woman, made threats and directed her to an area near Sixth Avenue and Cedar Street, at the south end of Balboa Park.

"That is where he forced her to commit numerous sexual acts, before moving her to a second location, where he forced more sex acts," Taschner alleged.

She said the second round of sexual assaults took place in the 1600 block of Ninth Avenue.

The woman who was nearly kidnapped told police she was approaching her car carrying take-out food from a nearby restaurant when she noticed a man in the reflection of her car window approaching her from behind.

The suspect made statements to the woman that she was going to be victimized, and she threw her food toward him and ran back into a building from where she came. Her boyfriend responded and the couple looked for the suspect, but they did not call police at the time.

It wasn't until news of the sexual assault became public that they came forward.

Taschner said the two "strong and courageous" women recalled details of the assailant's face and tattoos. A police flier based on their description generated numerous tips that led to the arrest of Hernandez, the prosecutor said.

In addition to forcible rape and oral copulation counts, he is charged with attempted kidnapping, three counts of sexual battery by restraint and two counts of sexual penetration by force, along with allegations that the alleged crimes took place during a kidnapping and with the use of a deadly weapon, which would substantially increase the penalty if the defendant is convicted.

The judge also ordered Hernandez to stay away from the victims.

He scheduled a readiness conference for May 20 and a preliminary hearing for May 24.