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Irvine : Broken-Down Car Led Police to Rape Suspect

Investigators arrested an El Toro Marine corporal in the rape of a 14-year-old girl after determining that he is the owner of a disabled car found in her neighborhood, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

Sgt. Scott Cade said detectives found a “broken down” vehicle “not far from the crime scene” soon after the girl was assaulted Sunday evening in the bedroom of her house. Her parents were at home in the city’s Woodbridge neighborhood, but they evidently did not hear her cries for help, police said.

“They (investigators) started seeking information on the owner of the vehicle,” Cade said, “and when they came back with the name (of the owner), they determined he might be a suspect in the case.”

Though he would not elaborate, Cade indicated that officers talked with the victim and that she convinced them that the owner of the car was the man who is alleged to have attacked her.

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Investigators believe that the rapist may have come into the house through an unlocked door. He pulled a knife when the girl entered the room and then raped her, police said.

Cpl. Phillip Jay Wheeler, 28, of Raytown, Tex., owns the vehicle that apparently broke down near the victim’s home, police said Wednesday.

Wheeler was arrested and charged Tuesday with rape and assault about four hours after a Navy chaplain talked him into climbing down from a water tower and surrendering to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

He was booked into Orange County Jail on $150,000 bail.

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