Army vet nabbed in series of sex attacks on women hiking California trail

A cargo pilot and Army veteran was arrested for a series of violent attacks on women on a California trail, authorities announced Monday.

Robert Daniel Yucas, 51, raped at least one woman and tried to rape two others after choking them and dragging them off a trail on Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo, an announcement from Orange County district attorney and sheriff’s offices said.

Yucas, who was linked to the three attacks between January 2020 and August 2021, is a suspect in multiple other crimes, authorities said.

“Sexual predators do not stop until we stop them,” DA Todd Spitzer said in a statement.

“An entire community lived in fear that they would be the next victims to be grabbed off a trail, choked unconscious, and raped.”

Yucas was arrested after DNA linked him to the attacks. An anonymous tip came due to a separate, unspecified incident in San Diego on Sept. 4, police said.

Authorities said the Army veteran, who spent time in Iraq, attacked a 24-year-old skateboarder on Jan. 20, 2020, when he asked her for directions, then dragged her into the bushes with a chokehold. She lost consciousness and woke up to find she’d been raped, authorities said.

Yucas allegedly attacked a 32-year-old runner three months later, on April 2, 2020 – by grabbing her in a chokehold from behind then dragging her into the bushes. He tried to rape her, but she fought him off, authorities said.

The alleged attacker struck again on Aug. 28, 2021, when he grabbed another runner from behind, according to the accusations. The 41-year-old victim woke up after she was choked unconscious and found her pants down, authorities said.

Yucas was arrested Thursday in Anchorage, Alaska as he got off a plane from China as part of his job with Kalitta Air, according to the announcement. He will be extradited to California to face multiple charges, including felony rape and kidnapping, with a maximum sentence of up to 39 years to life plus six years in state prison if he’s convicted.

Yucas is linked to three attacks between January 2020 and August 2021 and is suspected in other crimes.

The Cathedral City resident had appeared on local News Channel 3 earlier this month in a segment discussing the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks from the perspective of military veterans. During the segment, he showed a reporter photos of his time in Iraq, saying “so much has changed since then.”

The reporter stated in narration during the segment that Yucas told him he “wouldn’t be the same person” he was today without his experiences with the military and good people he met along the way. Of 9/11, Yucas is seen saying he felt pain even though he didn’t lose anyone in the terrorist attacks.

“It’s unimaginable to me what type of pain there must be for those who’ve lost folks who are really close to them – you can’t replace that,” Yucas says.

Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes said the victims were doing everyday things when they were attacked and their lives changed forever.

“We all want to live in a neighborhood where we feel safe to do something as simple to take a walk,” Barnes said in a statement. “With this arrest, we have regained a small piece of that sense of safety.”

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