The number of assaults over so short a period of time is in itself enough to send any community into near-panic. But two unusual details about the incidents raises the question of whether Corona is in the grips of something authorities haven’t seen before: All but one of the assaults occurred in broad daylight, and the epidemic of violence against Corona’s women appears to be the work of at least three or more men operating independently of each other.
The first incident—or, at least, the first reported to the Corona Police Department—happened at about 10AM on May 12. A woman jogging near Foothill Boulevard and Rimpau Avenue was attacked by a man—described as a heavyset, shorthaired Hispanic man in his late 20s—who jumped from some bushes and grabbed her from behind. She was able to pull away from him and the man ran off. About three hours later, another woman jogging near Rimpau and Beverly was attacked from behind by a man described as an African-American in his 40s. This woman also freed herself and the attacker fled.
The next incident occurred at about 5:30PM May 21 in the 300 block of Mountain Gate, when a 15-year-old jogger was grabbed from behind by a man she described as white, 6 feet tall, with balding brown hair and a goatee. Around 8:30AM on May 22 in the 3000 block of South Lincoln Avenue, yet another jogger was assaulted by a man fitting the same description as the attacker from the previous day. This time, the man threatened to stab the woman if she didn’t expose herself to him. Again, both victims were able to fight off their attackers.
Police believe the same man may have been responsible for the May 21 and 22 incidents but not the May 12 attacks.
Four female joggers, one a child, assaulted by at least two men over a 10-day period. Corona police were just getting their arms around that when another wave of assaults occurred—these apparently committed by yet another man, or men.
Police, between June 1-10, received three more reports of sexual assaults involving three females, between 14 and 22 years old. Detectives felt these three cases were committed by the same suspect but were unrelated to the prior attacks.
On June 1, a woman walking in the 700 block of West Grand Boulevard was suddenly grabbed by a man. The man—whom she described as white, 180 to 190 pounds and in his early 20s—“made inappropriate comments” and left, police say.
Nine days later, a 17-year-old girl was attacked in the laundry room of an apartment complex in the 200 block of South Vicentia. Less than four hours later, a 14-year-old-girl was grabbed from behind in the 500 block of South Sheridan Street. Both victims gave police the same description of their attackers: a white or Hispanic man in his mid- to late 20s, about 5-foot-8.
“It’s just unusual for these types of crimes to occur like this in this short a period of time,” says Corona Police Sgt. Jerry Pawluczenko. “That’s why we’re going to these lengths to try to catch the perpetrators—everything we know goes on our website. We’ve got the most up-to-date information we have on there—if any changes occur, we’ll put it on there.”
The department has thus far arrested two people in connection with the incidents. On June 3, officers pulled over a white van matching the description of the van in which the suspect in one of the May 12 jogging attacks was seen fleeing. That led to the arrest of Ian Harrison, a 30-year-old San Bernardino resident, who police say was responsible for the assault at Beverly and Rimpau. On June 20, police arrested Melquisedet Gonzalez, 25, of Corona. Gonzalez, whom authorities say was positively identified as the June 10 attacker of the 14-year-old girl, has been charged with child annoyance, sexual battery and assault.
But while police are convinced Williams and Gonzalez were behind some of the attacks, the unsettling fact remains that the two men almost certainly weren’t responsible for all of them. On June 12, Corona police received a report of an eighth assault on a female jogger. And while the investigation continues, the question of why Corona’s women are being targeted by so many remains unanswered.