Local

Alleged Halloween rapist makes shocking claim

Thursday, December 15, 2011

For the first time, we're hearing the frightened words of a woman who says she was raped at a truck stop just off I-5 in Avenal.

A three-day manhunt followed the woman's report on Nov. 1. It led to Michael Stanford, a 41-year-old oil field worker in Kern County. Thursday, prosecutors started piecing together their case against him.

Stanford's attorney says this all started because the alleged victim is a prostitute. He says his client even paid her on Halloween night -- the night in question. But detectives say the evidence tells a different story.

A nightmare scenario played out on Halloween at a truck stop in Avenal, according to Fresno County investigators. Detectives say security footage showed a man forcing his way into a small massage business late that night. They say the woman who worked there was asleep when she heard a knock at the door.

"She opened it and there was a male subject standing in the doorway," said Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Gomez. "She told him she was closed for business and as she closed the door, the man grabbed the edge of the door with both his hands, pulled it open and then pushed her inside."

Investigators say the woman knew the man as a previous customer and identified him in a photo lineup as Michael Stanford. A judge wouldn't allow us to show his face in court Thursday as he listened to the evidence in the case against him.

The alleged victim said Stanford punched her repeatedly during an attack that lasted nearly two hours. The woman said she pleaded with Stanford to stop.

"She said she struggled at the beginning, but it didn't do her any good," said Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Virginia Rodriguez.

Detectives looked at pictures of a bruised and bloodied victim in court, but we're not identifying the victim, who left the Fresno area shortly after reporting the attack.

Stanford claims it's all a misunderstanding and the only crime he committed was hiring a prostitute. But investigators say the alleged victim has consistently denied that claim.

A judge decided Thursday there's enough evidence to put Stanford on trial. He's due back in court in two weeks.

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Tags:
halloween, sex crimes, avenal, fresno county sheriff department, fresno county, local, corin hoggard
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