Crime - Sacto 911

‘Roaming rapist’ trial gets underway in Sacramento

Sixteen years after her midnight rape, the woman told a Sacramento Superior Court jury Wednesday about the night she rode her bike home across a dirt field in North Highlands and how “I heard something behind me, and I saw somebody walking behind me.”

“I started riding my bike faster,” she said, “and they started running after me.”

The burly man running in the field caught up with her, the woman said, “and they grabbed the handlebars of my bike, and I stopped my bike, and they came up behind me and put their arm around my neck. They told me to be quiet because they had a gun.”

“I was scared to death,” she testified.

She obeyed when the man told her to lay down on her stomach, before “he started punching me in the back of the head, and the last punch was with a concrete rock to the back of the head.”

The rape came next, and more than a decade and a half later, none of it has faded from her memory.

“I could picture it right now,” she said.

The woman, whose name is being withheld because she is a sexual assault victim, was the first of 10 who were raped by the man whomSacramento law enforcement authorities would later nickname “the roaming rapist.”

Sheriff’s detectives identified the rapist as Dereck Jermaine Sanders, who is now 41. Two years ago, prosecutors filed a 28-count complaint against him related to nine attacks that ranged from North Highlands to Carmichael to south Sacramento. The 10 victims included teenage girls, a young wife and two Stockton Boulevard prostitutes.

According to authorities, the assaults started with the April 20, 1998, attack on the woman who was 18 when her assailant ran her down in the field at the intersection of Roseville Road and Watt Avenue.

The last one took place March 21, 2003, when a man detectives identified as Sanders duped a woman who walked out of The Raven, a neighborhood bar in East Sacramento, into believing he was a cabbie.

Once she got inside his van, he handcuffed her, authorities said.

“She told him, ‘Please don’t do this to me. My husband and I are trying to have a child,’” Deputy District Attorney Rob Gold told the jury in his opening statement. Still, “He raped her, and said, ‘I wonder if the child might be mine,’ ” Gold told the jury.

The rapes were reported all over town. Three months after the rape of the bicyclist in the North Highlands field, two teenage girls were abducted at Madison Avenue and Dewey Drive in Carmichael. Two more attacks followed on women in Arcade Creek Park in December 1998 and Howe Avenue Park in November 2000.

A woman who had been drinking in a bar near California State University, Sacramento, in February 2001 was abducted and raped when she got into a traffic accident not too far away. Two Stockton Boulevard prostitutes were raped in March and May 2002, followed by an attack on a woman at La Mancha Way and Tangerine Avenue in the south area in March 2003. The last assault linked to “the roaming rapist” was the one on the wife who was coming out of The Raven on J Street.

During his opening statement, Gold stacked nine smallish cartons on a table and told the jury, “The defendant is in every one of these boxes.”

The transference, Gold said, came in the form of Sanders’ DNA that the prosecutor said matched the genetic material extracted from the sperm found in nine of the victims.

In his opening statement, defense attorney David Bonilla warned the jury to guard against “the type of emotion” the rape cases against Sanders might bring out. He said each of the nine incidents “is its own investigation, its own occurrence.” The victims, Bonilla said, varied case by case in their descriptions of their attacker.

He told the jury he will question the experts about the DNA contents in the rape-kit boxes the DA stacked in front of the panel.

“How did it get there?” Bonilla said. “Did it get there through proper methods and procedures?”

Investigators arrested Sanders on Nov. 9, 2012 – more than nine years after the last rape. Prosecutors ultimately charged him based on what they called a “familial” DNA hit.

The defendant’s brother, Ladell Lamont Sanders, 44, had been arrested and charged with rape in 2011. He has since been convicted and sentenced to prison for 25 years to life.

Officials said at the time of Dereck Sanders’ arrest the next year that it was Ladell’s DNA that led them to their man in the case.

Gold did not mention the brother to the jury on Wednesday, but he said detectives somehow “developed an investigative lead” that directed them to Dereck Sanders. They put him under surveillance, Gold said, and followed the suspect to a McDonald’s fast-food restaurant near CSUS and later to White Rock Park in Rancho Cordova where Sanders threw trash in a garbage can when he was finished eating.

Detectives retrieved the trash, and the crime lab snagged some DNA off the cup and straw, Gold said. Overwhelming statistical probability, the prosecutor said, established that Sanders’ DNA was the same as the serial rapist.