The teenaged blonde girl said she was on her knees in the driveway, waxing her surfboard, when a man came up from behind and grabbed ahold of her neck. “I saw his foot come into my vision,” she testified in court on Wednesday, October 4th.
The girl said she did not hear him as he approached her this past July. “He came up, I saw the foot, and he kind of grabbed my neck right here.” The teenager, identified only as J.D., pointed to her neck in the witness box.
Now 16, the girl lives on Neptune Street in Encinitas with her parents. J.D. is tall and athletic looking, and she might appear older than her years; but when she speaks she reveals herself to be a shy, soft-spoken girl.
She described the man’s grip: “It was pretty strong and kind of forceful, kind of aggressive, held my neck super-tight.”
A prosecutor brought out evidence photos of the girl’s neck, which showed red streaks. She said she agreed they looked like finger marks.
The girl testified that the stranger tried to force her face into the pavement, “tried to smash my face down,” but she was able to brace herself with both hands on the ground. “He was trying to get me down and I caught myself.” She said of the unexpected confrontation, “I was kind of confused.”
She said the man then tried to pull her upward and backward, and that he dragged her.
And then the stranger said something that shocked her into action. “And the man said, ‘All right, let’s do this!’” she remembered. “Those words really stuck.” His words caused her to act. “That triggered my brain, what was happening” and she fought.
“I said, after he grabbed me I kept saying, ‘No, no’ and ‘stop’ and ‘no,’ and pushing him off, and ‘stop,'” she said. “And I got him off.” She couldn’t explain how she successfully twisted or pushed to get free of his grip. “For me, it was just kind of adrenaline. Just fought him off.”
THERE WERE TWO MEN
The girl said she stood upright and faced both of the men, whom she had noticed earlier. She described the looks on their faces: “They were both kinda confused that I got away.”
“I said, ‘That’s not cool!’” And she backed away from them until she could escape through a gate and lock it behind her, and flee into the nearest house.
J.D. said she noticed the two men with a blue truck as soon as she went to get her longboard out of the garage, about 5 p.m. that day. “They were across the street, parked.” They had no board. “People are there to surf.” In fact, J.D. said it was “rush hour” at that location: there are stairs that provide access to the popular surf spot there, and many people hurry get to the ocean before dark, because at that hour “it’s glassed off.”
She had never seen the men before. “They didn’t look like they were in place there, at that spot.”
She was first concerned they might steal her bicycle or surfboard. “I saw them looking up and down the street and thought, Oh, they are probably going to try to take my board.”
“I felt like they were watching me,” she testified. “I know at least one of them was.”
After she fought off the one man, the other man, the one who had been sitting on the roof of the truck, said, “Sorry.” And the man who stayed with the truck also said, “Go into the house.”
J.D. did go into the nearest home, which belonged to a neighbor.
In the courtroom, J.D. identified the man who tried to grab her as defendant Jeremiah Robert Owens, 28. She said the man who stayed with the truck and drove away after the grabber got into the passenger seat was defendant Christopher Lee White, 27.
THE MAN IN THE BLUE TRUCK
The San Diego County Sheriff put out a press release the day after the alleged assault, on July 27, with a sketch of one suspect.
A citizen reported seeing a blue pickup truck the next day, on July 28. Deputies pulled over a blue Toyota Tacoma on the 1400 block of Summit Avenue in Encinitas and spoke with the driver, Chris White. In a recorded interview, White quickly gave up the name of his roommate Jeremy Owens.
The attorney for White claimed he was surprised when Owens put hands on the girl, and that he believed his friend was approaching the girl to speak with her.
San Diego Superior Court judge Robert Kearney ordered both men to trial; they both face four serious felonies, including attempted kidnap, assault with intent to commit a lewd act on a child, and false imprisonment with violence and menace. Both men pleaded not guilty to all charges and are being held without bail. They are next expected in court on November 1.