Jury says California man who sexually assaulted hikers, sleeping women poses ‘serious danger to society'

A 42-year-old Southern California man faces up to 53 years behind bars after being convicted of sexually assaulting five females in just under three years.

A Southern California man has been convicted of sexually assaulting five women who were hiking or sleeping at the time he attacked them.

Edgar Rodriguez Ruelas, 42, of Woodland Hills, was convicted last week and on Tuesday, jurors found that there were "aggravating factors," including that he "represents a serious danger to society," according to a Ventura County District Attorney press release. 

The five female victims were attacked between June 2017 and March 2020, with one of them being as young as 16 years old. Prosecutors say the assaults occurred in their homes or on hiking trails in Thousand Oaks and Oak Park. 

"Ruelas represents one of the more dangerous sexual offenders apprehended in Ventura County in recent history," Senior Deputy District Attorney Brent Nibecker said in the release. "I am indebted to the brave victims in this case who not only resisted Ruelas when he attacked but had the courage to testify in court and ensure he can never target women again."


On June 15, 2017, Ruelas assaulted a 25-year-old woman after he entered her apartment through an unlocked door, the DA's office's press release said. The victim woke up after hearing Ruelas open the door to her bedroom, and she fought back and yelled for her roommate when Ruelas tried to force her onto her bed. Ruelas soon fled the scene.

In the early morning hours of July 14, 2017, Ruelas assaulted a woman who was hiking by herself in Wildwood Regional Park. Ruelas followed the victim before he jumped out at her from behind some bushes while wearing all black with his face covered, the DA's office said. The victim ended up on the ground, where she was straddled and groped by Ruelas. The woman told Ruelas she had called her husband and the police, and Ruelas ran away. Surveillance footage showed a vehicle Ruelas owned quickly leaving the scene. The vehicle was later found at Ruelas' apartment complex. 


On Oct. 25, 2017, a sleeping woman woke up in the early morning when Ruelas was standing over her, and he sexually assaulted her while covering her mouth. When the woman was able, she called out to her boyfriend and Ruelas took off running. The victim's boyfriend chased and caught Ruelas, who eventually escaped and ran away.

In the evening hours of April 12, 2019, Ruelas again hid in the bushes of a trail dressed in all black, including a ski mask. He tackled her and grabbed her clothes, prosecutors said. She fought him off, screamed and told Ruelas that other people knew where she was, at which point he fled. 

The final incident Ruelas was accused of was on March 5, 2020. Prosecutors say he was again hiding in bushes along a hiking trail wearing black, then came out and pushed a 16-year-old girl to the ground and covered her mouth. The victim screamed and hit Ruelas with a ukulele she had with her, then broke free and located a neighbor who helped her call 911 and contact her family. Surveillance footage showed the same vehicle that investigators had connected to Ruelas. 

License plate reading technology led to his arrest. 

Ruelas was linked to all the attacks besides one after DNA testing of items of evidence.

Ruelas will be sentenced June 5 and faces up to life in prison.

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