SANTA ANA — A Baldwin Park man has been arrested on suspicion of a violent Orange County rape and kidnapping as officials investigate the possibility he’s responsible for other similar attacks.
Jose Luis Capacete, 39, was arrested Jan. 20 on suspicion of rape and kidnapping with intent to commit rape in connection with an alleged vicious attack on a prostitute in Santa Ana on Christmas Eve of last year, Santa Ana police officials said in a written statement.
Capacete, who works as an armored car driver in Orange County, picked the woman up in a van along Harbor Boulevard, officials said.
“Once the victim was inside Capacete’s vehicle, Capacete produced a handgun and a Taser,” according to the police statement. “The victim’s hands were tied behind her back and she was sexually assaulted in the van.”
Evidence found at the scene ultimately led police to identify Capacete as a suspect in the kidnapping and rape, and authorities carried out a search warrant at his Baldwin Park home, Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
“We collected evidence that belonged to six different females that have no relation to him,” Bertagna said. “That’s what leads us to believe there are other victims.”
Capacete was arrested Jan. 20 and is being held in lieu of $1 million bail, according to police and Orange County booking records.
Since his arrest, Santa Ana detectives have learned of other strikingly similar kidnappings and rapes and are investigating the possibility Capacete was also involved in those cases.
Another woman, also a prostitute, reported she was kidnapped and raped with the use of a handgun and Taser on Jan. 7 in Garden Grove, Bertagna said.
Additionally, detectives learned following Capacete’s arrest that U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials investigating an unrelated case had interviewed another prostitute in August who told them she had been the victim of a similar attack in Santa Ana, the corporal said.
Federal officials did not notify Santa Ana police of the report until after Capacete’s arrest.
“This woman that they’re working with brought this incident to their attention and told them what happened, but the documentation never made it here, so we never had a case,” Bertagna said.
“Unfortunately, that’s one of those things that slipped through the cracks,” he said.
The investigation into the DHS report and the Garden Grove case remained in their early stages, Bertagna said. The only case in which a charge has been filed is the Christmas Eve assault.
“(The other two) cases are ongoing and being looked into, as well as the six additional pieces of evidence (from Capacete’s home),” Bertagna said.
All of the three possible victims identified so far were prostitutes, immigrants and in their 20s, officials said.
Police sought the public’s help Thursday in connecting Capacete to any additional crimes.
Though Capacete lived in Baldwin Park, investigators had not linked him to any assaults in the San Gabriel Valley, police said.
The brutality and sophistication displayed in the alleged Dec. 24 assault indicates an experienced attacker,” Bertagna said. “With this level of violence, our concern is, how long has he been doing this?”
Capacete appeared in court for arraignment Jan. 24, however it was continued and he did not enter a plea, Orange County District Attorney’s officials said. He was scheduled to return to the Central Jail Court Feb. 9.
PHOTO of Jose Capacete courtesy of the Santa Ana Police Department