VISTA – One of two victims testified on March 27 that she was tied up, gagged and sexually assaulted by her neighbor at knifepoint before the accused also kidnapped her 19-year-old best friend, which led to a manhunt by police for the Vista sex offender parolee last Memorial Day weekend.Jeremy Ryan Stutzman, 34, faces 11 felonies for at least one rape, sexually battery, assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and robbery charges against two women, 19 and 20, at his South Santa Fe Drive apartment complex where he lived as a registered sex offender.
He faces up to 300 years in prison, according to prosecutor Patrick Espinoza.
The older of the two friends had just turned 20 the day before the attack, and testified that she was smoking methamphetamine and drinking beer with both her friend and the defendant when the real-life nightmare began.
“I can’t remember which hogtie it was but he had used that rope on me,” she said in court as she pointed to the blue and white rope strewn on the floor in a picture of the crime scene that was shown to the jury.
She had lived in the apartment above Stutzman, and said that she knew him for three months, during which time he helped her get drugs through his friend.
But they had never been inside of each other’s apartment until the day of the attack when the victim invited Stutzman in to show him a coffee table she had for sale.
She was actually moving that day, and her mother was driving from the central coast to help her move out.
The two were forced to model lingerie—most of it stolen by the defendant from the victim’s dresser as he marched the women in and out of both apartments, threatening them with a hunting knife to be silent and look happy.
The pictures on the courtroom’s wall-sized screen revealed Stutzman’s disheveled apartment, the mattress on the floor described by the witness and piles of undergarments, including cut-up clothing that she said was sliced off of her body by a hunting knife.
Espinoza said that at one point, one young lady’s hands were bound to a shower curtain rail and one to a vacuum cleaner.
He is accused of repeatedly hogtying them with rope, neckties and even one woman’s own bathrobe belt.
The petite victim became emotional as she told the court that Stutzman raped her and made her perform oral sex on him, and that she did not consent to any of it.
“I was scared out of my mind,” she said. “He had the knife against my neck and pulled my hair back …”
She said she escaped the final bondage after Stutzman tied a T-shirt over her head, tied her wrists to her ankles and secured her body underneath a blanket and a sleeping bag, leaving her barely able to breath.
Next, she heard the door close and footsteps overhead as he forced her friend back upstairs into her apartment, again.
“I started panicking, felt like I was going to break,” she said.
But she didn’t.
“I went into hulk mode,” she said.
She freed herself and pulled the shirt off of her head while broken ties were still anchored around each ankle.
The victim said she ran outside, deep into her apartment complex in search of a light on that indicated someone was home after her first door-pounding for help went unanswered.
She called the police from a married couple’s apartment, at just after 11 p.m. on May 30, 2011, but by then Stutzman had realized she escaped and he left the complex with her keys, her car and her best friend.
Police secured the area and used a search dog to enter both apartments, and found Stutzman’s to be in disarray.
“What really caught my attention as you made entry from the living room into the bedroom, there was a chair with neckties tied to the bottom and another one in the bathroom,” said Darren Perata, the lead crime scene detective during court testimony.
Perata quickly released a description of the suspect and the vehicle, and it was a 16-hour manhunt before authorities located Stutzman after he dropped off the other victim at the apartment complex the next morning.
Stutzman was listed on the Megan’s Law Website for the crime of sexual battery, and is described an American Indian, 6-feet-one, 192-pounds, born on Feb. 17, 1978.
Court records show he has prior strikes and was convicted in the county on more than a dozen charges on June 27, 2001, of which his parole and sex offender status stem from.
The defense told the court that the oral copulation preformed by the women was consensual, and also that Stutzman’s DNA did not match the evidence collected from the older victim during a medical exam after the attack.