Authorities search for possible sexual assailant who may be linked to 2020 attacks in Aliso Viejo

Local news

Orange County sheriff’s investigators are searching for a man who may have sexually assaulted a woman in an Aliso Viejo incident possibly connected to two other attacks that occurred nearby in 2020, officials said in a statement Sunday. 

On Sunday morning, a woman in her 40s reported a possible sexual assault near the area of Pacific Park Drive and Alicia Parkway in Aliso Viejo. The woman said the incident occurred the previous night at around 11 p.m. as she walked in the area alone. 

She says she was approached from behind by a man who grabbed her and dragged her into bushes near the Aliso Creek Trail. The woman lost consciousness and when she awoke the attacker was gone.

The woman was unable to provide a description of the assailant or what occurred after she was kidnapped and dragged into the bushes, the statement said. 

Deputies on Sunday morning conducted a thorough search of the area where the assault occurred, which is around the same area where two sexual assaults were reported close to Woodfield Park in 2020.

On Jan. 20, 2020, a 22-year-old woman reported that an unknown man attempted to talk to her while she was skateboarding in the park area, then unexpectedly grabbed her as she fought and screamed.

The second incident occurred on April 2, 2020, when deputies responded to Woodfield Park after a woman reported a man grabbed her from behind and forced her into the bushes off the hiking trail, just east of the baseball fields. 

The victim, a woman in her 30s, fought back and screamed for help and the attacker fled the area. 

The man was described as in his mid-30s, with dark eyes, little-to-no hair, a muscular build, wearing a black shirt, black shorts and tennis shoes, the statement said.

“It is vital that this individual is identified and doesn’t have the opportunity to attack again,” said Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes. “While our investigators continue their tireless attempts to identify this suspect, we implore the community to come forward if they have any information to share.”

Working with the Orange County Crime Lab, assailant DNA was collected from both victims. The DNA profiles from both incidents in 2020 matched, but do not match DNA in existing law enforcement databases, officials said. 

Following the 2020 incidents, the Sheriff’s Department set up a task force to identify and arrest a suspect.

A team of more than 100 Sheriff’s Department personnel ran multiple operations in the area. In addition, investigators worked with local businesses on leads and launched a public information campaign that included social media, traditional media and text message alerts.

However, the task force operations did not result in identifying a suspect.

Special Victims Detail investigators are leading the investigation and will work with the Orange County Crime Lab to determine if DNA can be collected in the attack that occurred in Aliso Viejo Saturday night. If DNA is collected, it will be analyzed to determine if it matches DNA from the 2020 incidents, officials said. 

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Special Victims Detail at 714-647-7419 or Dispatch at 714-647-7000.

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