We saw him when we were going in, he was just standing out there.” The pretty 16-year-old girl described the man outside the Vista library that Saturday in February as scruffy. “I didn’t think anything of it.”
Josie had her 12-year-old sister Lizzie (not their real names) with her that afternoon, February 17, 2018. The girls worked on their homework for about an hour, in the library, before they decided to go to get something to eat. Upon exiting the library, they saw that the man was still there. “He was waiting by the ramp.” They walked towards a long, sloping wheelchair ramp which led to the sidewalk.
The man looked odd to Josie. “He just seemed like someone who just woke up and decided to go out.” She spoke about the encounter two months later, in a witness box.
One attorney asked her if the man looked like a transient, but Josie hesitated; perhaps she was not familiar with the word “transient.” So that attorney asked Josie if the man looked as if he had gone out, “Almost like without a shower?” Josie answered, “Almost.”
Josie said the man approached them, and he spoke. “It just seemed like a random conversation,” Josie remembered. The two girls were walking side by side and, “He was talking to my sister, Lizzie.”
Later, both girls said they had never seen the man before.
The stranger came within arm’s length and stood in front of the girls, “He was standing in between us, in front of us,” Josie said.
And then he reached for Lizzie. “He said ‘Let’s go to the movies,’ and he grabbed my sister.”
Josie continued, “He was talking about going to some movie theater with some other man. He said, ‘Me and him are going to the movie theaters to watch a movie.’ He said he was going to the movies with, I think, an uncle. And that’s all I remember.”
One attorney asked if it seemed that uncle was nearby, and Josie confirmed that. She added, “Like waiting.”
“He reached for my sister’s arm and tried to like pull her,” Josie said. “And that’s when I pushed her back.” Josie demonstrated in the witness box, she thrust one arm straight out and to her side, as if to block an intruder. She said the man was able to move her sister only a little when he pulled her, “Like a tug,” toward himself.
“I pushed her back and told him to back up.”
“I wasn’t gonna let anything happen to her,” said the big sister. “I thought he was gonna take her or something.” She said the man started to act differently, as soon as he grabbed Lizzie.
Little sister Lizzie
Josie’s 12-year-old sister took a turn in the witness box. Lizzie was much smaller than her tall, teenaged sister. In Lizzie’s speech she sprinkled the word like generously throughout, a habit common among California girls.
“Like a guy like tried to take me,” she told the court. “We were going up, and then he like came, like that. He was just like, ‘Hey let’s go to the movies’... and then he just grabbed me.”
Lizzie showed her arm to the judge, and she pointed near her wrist and said, “Like, tight.” An attorney asked if it hurt when the man grabbed her. “Not really,” said Lizzie, who was brave and matter-of-fact in court. Both of her parents were in the courtroom, but they were not as brave as Lizzie. They both cried while listening to their daughters’ testimony. The father leaned forward in his seat and appeared enraged while tears ran down his cheeks.
“I tried to move my hand back but I couldn’t.” Lizzie explained to a judge how she resisted the stranger. “My feet were trying to like keeping myself steady to pull away.”
“Afterward he tried to pull me, but my sister pulled me back,” Lizzie said. “She was like trying to move my hand back from him.
“After he grabbed me, my sister pulled me away, and then he just started hitting her. Like he hit her with a closed fist, but I’m not sure where. He hit her more than once, maybe more than twice, but I’m not sure.”
“Yeah, he was like afterward to my sister, I’m going to kill you.”
Her back was against the wall
Big sister Josie’s testimony confirmed that of her little sister. “That’s when he said he was going to kill me and started hitting me.”
The stranger pulled Josie’s arm away from her little sister and he threatened Josie. “In a loud voice. He seemed angry. I was in shock.”
He “started hitting my head and punching me.”
They were all near a low, concrete retaining wall. Josie said he pushed her backwards into the wall. “He was like three inches from my face and he just started punching me. More than three times. On my face.” She tried to move away from him and somehow they both fell to the ground. While they were both on the ground, he started kicking at her; this while they were close to each other. “We were facing each other, like one foot away.”
His kicking was striking her legs. Josie said he was “grinning” while he kicked at her.
The prosecutor produced an evidence photo which showed the girl’s glasses on the ground there.
Josie said she jumped up while the man was still on the ground. “And then I grabbed my sister and I was like, ‘We’re leaving, let’s go.’ And that’s when we ran to the lady.” There was a woman in the parking lot, near her car. The girls spoke to the woman, Josie said they were afraid because the strange man was still following them. “He was walking down like nothing happened.” In their direction.
Josie said the lady took photos of that man with her cell phone while she was by her car. And as they walked together, toward the library, the woman continued to take phone-camera-images of the strange man. The woman and girls all went inside the library, where the adult woman spoke with the security guard there.