Orange County authorities have arrested a man in connection with at least one of four groping incidents near an Aliso Viejo hiking trail.
The Sheriff’s Department is working to determine whether the four attacks, in which three young girls and a woman have been accosted in the same area, are related. On Wednesday, after asking for the public’s help in identifying suspects in the attacks, authorities arrested an Aliso Viejo man on suspicion of child molestation.
Christopher Lopez, 30, was booked into the Orange County Jail and is being held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Investigators have not revealed which incident they say Lopez is linked to and are still trying to determine whether he is connected with more than one attack.
Last week, two girls reported they were groped near their schools in Aliso Viejo. The day after the Orange County Sheriff’s Department released two sketches of possible suspects in those incidents, a third child reported that a man had grabbed her and tried to drag her toward bushes near the popular Aliso Creek Hiking Trail before she escaped. On Tuesday, a 28-year-old woman reported a similar incident along the same trail, which borders Aliso Viejo and Laguna Hills.
The first incident was reported Sept. 12, when a 12-year-old girl said she was touched by a man while walking to Aliso Viejo Middle School at about 9 a.m. She said the man fled after she yelled at him.
On Sept. 17, a 16-year-old girl said she was walking home at about 4 p.m. from Aliso Niguel High School along the Aliso Creek Hiking Trail — roughly three miles from the middle school — when a man pulled on her skirt. The teen said she slapped the man’s hand and ran home.
The following day, at roughly 6:30 p.m., an 11-year-old girl was walking her dog along the same trail when, she said, a man grabbed her and started to pull her toward some brush. The girl screamed, and the man released her and fled, authorities said.
On Tuesday, a 28-year-old woman said she was walking along the trail at about 8:45 a.m. when she heard someone jogging up behind her. A man grabbed her by the elbow and pulled her toward him, she said. The woman said she head-butted her attacker, prompting him to run away.
In the first incident, the student described the man who accosted her as in his early 30s with dirty blond hair and a goatee. He was wearing sunglasses and dressed completely in black.
In the second attack, the suspect was described as 30 to 40 years old, about 5-foot-6 and 140 pounds with short black hair. He also wore sunglasses and was dressed in a black collared shirt and tan cargo pants.
The third girl described the man who grabbed her as having short dark hair and wearing a red Angels sweatshirt, blue jeans and black shoes.
The woman in the fourth attack described her assailant as about 5-foot-10 with medium-length dark brown hair. She was unable to provide enough details of his face for a sketch but said he was wearing a black sweatshirt with a large colored logo on the back and jeans.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at (714) 647-7000.