An El Rio man who ran four women off a lonely highway to attack them, raping the fourth victim in a deserted orchard, was sentenced Monday to 47 years to life in prison.
"The reality is, Mr. Ambriz is every woman's nightmare," Judge Allen L. Steele said before imposing the maximum sentence on Silverio Ambriz, 32. "Every husband, every mother, every child has someone close to them who goes out driving at night. We all hope no one like that exists, but then Mr. Ambriz comes along and shows that our worst fears can be justified."
Ambriz also received the maximum fines by the judge, which includes $10,000 to be paid to the state restitution fund, $3,214 to one victim for damage to her car and undetermined sums to the other three victims.
Steele found Ambriz guilty of 14 felonies, including rape, assault, kidnapping, robbery and solicitation for murder.
Ambriz, a farm worker, will not be eligible for parole for 40 years. And prosecutor Jacqueline Wise, who prosecuted the case, promises that she will be there waiting when Ambriz comes up for parole.
"I will be there at the parole board arguing that he should never be released," the deputy district attorney said after the sentencing.
Ambriz was found guilty in December of using his truck to attack four women on Thanksgiving night 1996 as they drove on a deserted stretch of California 118 near Somis.
He chased his fourth victim at high speed until her car flipped as she was making a tight curve. He then smashed the window of her car with a log, dragged her out by her hair and took her to a deserted orchard, where he raped her. He left the 20-year-old Fillmore resident naked and shivering, hogtied with her own shoelaces.
Before he left he ripped a hoop earring from her ear, saying, "I want to remember you by this," according to testimony during the trial.
While in jail, Ambriz reportedly asked a fellow inmate to have the rape victim killed so she couldn't testify against him. That inmate went to police, who had him secretly record his conversations with Ambriz.
In court Monday morning, Ambriz continued to deny that he committed the crimes.
"I understand perfectly that these people were attacked. I heard them testify. I know what was done to them was very ugly," Ambriz said to the judge in Spanish. "I don't have anything to be sad about, though, because God knows I am innocent."
Ambriz's statement followed a witness-impact statement by his rape victim.
In a tremulous voice, the young woman, who was 18 at the time of the attack, told the judge how the incident changed her life.
"I am afraid of the public. I can't go out and just get in my car," she said. "If someone gets near my car, I freak out. I think they are going to follow me. Harass me."
Tearfully, she turned and spoke to the defendant. "Mr. Ambriz, I just want to know why you did this to me."
After the sentencing, Ambriz's four victims, their families and the prosecutor embraced outside the courtroom.
"I feel very, very happy," said the rape victim's older brother. "At the beginning of the trial, you could see the judge had doubts. But at the end, you could see in his eyes that he believed it all."