‘Hunted them like prey’: Cargo airline pilot tied to 3 sex crimes in SoCal

California

An Army veteran who worked as a cargo airline pilot has been arrested in Alaska and charged with kidnapping and attacking three women at a park in Aliso Viejo, including one woman he sexually assaulted, authorities announced Monday.

The suspect has also been tied to additional crimes in Riverside and San Diego counties, and officials believe he may have victimized others.

Robert Daniel Yucas, 51 of Cathedral City, was arrested Sept. 16 in Anchorage after a return flight from China, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. He was identified using DNA evidence gathered from two crimes that occurred in Aliso Viejo.

The first known incident in Orange County occurred on Jan. 20, 2020, when a 22-year-old woman was skateboarding in Woodfield Park. Yucas allegedly stopped the victim and asked her for directions. He then allegedly assaulted her, dragged her into nearby bushes and sexually assaulted her, Sheriff Don Barnes said at a news conference Monday. Authorities were able to collect DNA evidence from that incident, but did not find a match in a national database.

The second incident occurred on April 20, 2020, when a 32-year-old woman was running along a trail in the park when she was attacked. The victim was able to fight off her assailant and DNA evidence was obtained.

The third incident occurred on Aug. 28, 2021, when a 41-year-old woman was walking in the park. The suspect allegedly placed the victim in a chokehold, dragged her into a nearby bush and tried to sexually assault her. She lost consciousness and woke up in the bushes next to the walking path with her pants pulled down, officials said.

Authorities had previously provided information about the crimes along with a sketch of the assailant, to no avail.

During the investigation, detectives got an anonymous tip about a Sept. 4 incident in San Diego that ultimately led to DNA evidence that matched the suspect in the Orange County attacks. Investigators later found another case in Riverside County that matched the DNA sample. With that evidence, detectives were able to identify Yucas as their suspect, officials said.

Yucas is awaiting extradition in Alaska. He has been charged with three counts of kidnapping to commit a sex offense, one count of forcible rape, one count of attempted forcible rape and three counts of assault with intent to commit a sex offense, according to the Orange County District Attorney’s office. He faces 39 years to life plus six years in prison if convicted on all charges.

Authorities said Yucas is accused of being a “serial rapist,” and District Attorney Todd Spitzer called Yucas “brazen” and “calculating.”

“These women endured unimaginable horror at the hands of a stranger who hunted them like prey,” Spitzer said.

Barnes said detectives are still following up on leads, including checking Yucas’ flight schedules and working with other agencies to find more possible victims.

He said that Yucas’ ability to fly across the U.S. and around the world suggests there could be more victims out there.

Authorities released an image of Yucas from an interview with KESQ, a news station in Riverside County, earlier this month about military veterans reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Spitzer said it was the best image authorities had of Yucas, before he was taken into custody.

Yucas worked for Kalitta Air and lived in Aliso Viejo before moving to Cathedral City. He is also known to spend time in San Diego County, officials said. They are asking for anyone with additional information about Yucas, or anyone who believes they may have been victimized by him to call the Sheriff’s Department sexual assault unit at 714-647-7419.

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