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Woman Takes Stand in Rape Trial of Motorist

Times Staff Writer

A Spring Valley woman testified Thursday that she was raped by a motorist who stopped to help start her stalled car and said that police later made her feel “unimportant” because they took two hours to respond to her rape report.

The 27-year-old victim testified at the trial of Nathan Hood, 31, who is charged with rape, attempted robbery and kidnaping. The charges stem from a Jan. 21 incident, when the woman’s car broke down on Interstate 5 near the Pershing Drive exit and she waited four hours for help that never arrived.

Initially, the woman said, she felt partly responsible for the rape because she willingly entered the accused rapist’s van after he promised to help her. She testified that she was frustrated with police because they waited so long to send an officer to her house after she reported the attack on the following day.

Noting that she also had waited in her car for four hours without police assistance on the night of the assault, the woman said that she felt “unimportant” and “neglected.”

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She testified that her car broke down at 6:30 p.m. while she was on her way home from her secretarial job at a downtown law firm. She testified that, during the next four hours, at least 10 police cars drove by without stopping to give assistance. The woman said that she thought about Ann Catherine Swanke’s death and decided to stay in the car after stepping out to open the hood. Swanke, a University of San Diego honor student, was abducted Nov. 20 after her car ran out of gas in La Mesa. Her body was found four days later on a remote hillside near Spring Valley.

At 10:15 p.m., the woman testified, she ventured out of the car in the hope of attracting attention, and Hood pulled up in his van about 10:30 p.m. When Hood pulled up, she put her purse in the trunk and locked herself in the car, she said.

“He stood outside the door and said, ‘I just want to help.’ He offered to take me to a towing service . . . I told him all I needed to do was go to a phone and call my husband,” said the woman. “He seemed like someone I could trust. I wanted to trust him. So, I said OK.”

Instead of taking her to a phone booth, the man drove around and pulled out a toy pistol and threatened to rob her, the woman said. Eventually, Hood drove her to an isolated spot near Brown Field, where the rape occurred, she testified.

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Police said that Hood had changed his story several times about what he did on the night of the alleged rape. Detective Frank B. Zelmer testified at the preliminary hearing that Hood told police that the woman entered the van and then agreed to have sex with him.

Afterward, Hood drove her back to her car and helped get it started, the woman said.

The woman was questioned most of the day by Deputy Dist. Atty. Harry Elias.


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