Jury Convicts Man in Rape of Driver Stranded on I-5

Times Staff Writer

A Superior Court jury on Friday convicted Nathan Hood of kidnaping and raping a Spring Valley woman whose car broke down on Interstate 5 near downtown San Diego in January.

The kidnaping and rape occurred after the woman tried, and failed, for four hours to flag down passing police cars for assistance. Publicity surrounding what became known as the "freeway rape" case and a recent slaying helped prompt police commitments to assist stranded motorists and legislation to provide more call boxes on San Diego County freeways.

According to the victim's testimony, Hood, 31, claiming to be a mechanic, stopped and offered assistance. However, once the woman was in his van he took her to a secluded area of Otay Mesa and raped her.

Hood, who threatened the 27-year-old woman with what police later determined was a toy pistol, then drove her back to her car, helped start the engine and drove off.

The woman, a receptionist at a law firm, testified she entered Hood's van expecting to be driven to a nearby telephone. She said she entered the van reluctantly, after waiting for almost four hours for help after the car broke down at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 21 near the Pershing Drive exit on I-5.

The jury, composed of nine men and three women, deliberated for one day before reaching its verdict.

Hood was found not guilty of kidnaping with intent to commit robbery, a crime that carries a possible life sentence in prison, and attempted robbery.

A spokesman for the district attorney's office said Deputy Dist. Atty. Harry Elias likely would request the maximum 16-year prison term when Hood appears before Judge J. Perry Langford Aug. 16 for sentencing.

Hood, a resident of Southeast San Diego, told police that the woman consented to have sex with him. The woman testified that she offered no resistance to the rape, mindful of the recent slaying of Ann Catherine Swanke, because she feared for her life. Hood's attorney, Logan McKechnie, did not call any witnesses in his defense.

The rape case received prominent attention in the media in part because it came about two months after the slaying of Swanke, a University of San Diego honor student who was abducted after her car ran out of gas in La Mesa.

The two crimes prompted promises from San Diego police Chief Bill Kolender that officers would be more conscientious in assisting stranded motorists. It also helped buttress a state Senate bill authored by Sen. William Craven (R-Oceanside), providing a $3 million state loan to San Diego County to pay for emergency call boxes on the county's freeways.

Craven's bill, approved by the state Senate this week, still must pass the Assembly and be signed by Gov. Deukmejian before the loan, to be paid off by a temporary $1 surcharge on vehicle registrations in the county, can be secured.

According to the spokesman, Hood could receive a maximum sentence of eight years on the rape charge, with three additional years because a kidnaping was involved in that offense. Five additional years could be added to his penalty because Hood has a prior conviction of assault with great bodily injury.

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