An airline pilot has been arrested and charged in connection with a series of attacks on women along running trails in Aliso Viejo, authorities said Monday.
Robert Daniel Yucas, 51, of Cathedral City was arrested last week in connection with several attacks that began in January 2020 after DNA from an arrest in San Diego was matched to the Orange County assaults, O.C. Sheriff Don Barnes said.
Yucas is accused of attacking one woman who was running on the Aliso Viejo trails, another who was skateboarding and a third who was walking. He choked his victims unconscious before trying to sexually assault two of them, and one of the women was raped, prosecutors said.
Authorities say they suspect Yucas, a U.S. Army reservist and pilot who now lives in Riverside County, may have attacked other women because he lived in the Aliso Viejo area from 2017 to 2019.
“We believe there are additional victims because of pattern and practice of his predator behavior,” Barnes said in announcing the arrest, which followed a 20-month investigation involving more than 100 deputies and investigators. “What happened to these women will change their lives forever.”
Barnes said investigators received an anonymous tip on Sept. 9 about an incident in San Diego that led them to Yucas. He had had his DNA taken Sept. 4 after being identified as a suspect in another crime.
A rapid test matched DNA from the San Diego case to what was collected from the three victims and their clothes in the Orange County attacks, Barnes said.
Investigators think Yucas’ first attack occurred Jan. 20, 2020, when a 22-year-old woman was skateboarding near Woodfield Park. A man approached the woman and tried to talk to her before grabbing at her, but the woman fought back and screamed until he ran away, Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said.
On April 2, a 32-year-old woman also was grabbed from behind and forced into the bushes near the creek. That woman repeatedly struck her attacker and managed to break free, authorities said.
Most recently, Yucas is accused of grabbing a 41-year-old woman from behind while she walked alone on Aug. 28 on Aliso Creek Trail and again dragging her into nearby bushes. The woman awoke to find her pants down around 11 p.m. Her attacker had fled.
“They were all indiscriminately snatched from that trail,” Spitzer said.
Yucas was taken into custody after landing a plane in Anchorage on Thursday. He was flying for Kalitta Airlines, a large freight carrier, and returning from China, Spitzer said.
He is charged with three felony counts of kidnap in the commission of a sex crime, rape, felony attempted rape and three felony counts of assault with intent to commit a sexual offense. If convicted of all charges, he faces 39 years to life in prison.