San Diego Navy commander arrested on attempted rape charge

A U.S. Navy commander was arrested Monday on suspicion of trying to rape a woman in Valencia Park after her screams prompted a neighbor to call 911, San Diego police said.

Officers spotted John Michael Neuhart II running from the woman’s residence and chased him into a nearby canyon, said San Diego Police Lt. Paul Phillips. He was taken into custody about 3 a.m.

The 39-year-old naval aviator was booked into jail on suspicion of attempted rape by force and sexual assault with the intent to rape. He later posted bail, which was set at $100,000, and has a Superior Court arraignment set for Monday, a district attorney’s office spokeswoman said.

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The victim, a Navy woman in her late 20s, was with friends at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel when they spotted Neuhart, who was an acquaintance, Phillips said. The two talked for a time, and when she went to go home, he went with her. When they got to the residence, he followed her inside.

“The suspect immediately became forceful with her and attempted to sexually assault her,” Phillips said. “She was able to fight him off and began screaming very loudly.”

A neighbor heard the screams, called police and then shouted into the home that the police were on the way, Phillips said. When officers arrived, the neighbor pointed them to a man bolting out the back door.

Phillips declined to say if either the victim or the suspect was injured.


Neuhart is based in Guam but was in San Diego for a Helicopter Sea Combat Commanders Warfighter Symposium, Navy public affairs Lt. Leslie Hubbell. Police didn’t know if the victim was attending the same conference.

Hubbell said Naval Criminal Investigative Service has been notified of the arrest.

Neuhart’s Navy biography says he took command of HSC Squadron 25 in Guam in December.

Cmdr. William Eastham was given temporary command of Neuhart’s squadron, Hubbell said.


Neuhart received his commission in 2000 after graduating from Ohio State University. His biography said he flew 36 combat missions in Iraq, is credited with numerous individual rescues, and has logged more than 2,100 hours in the air, including on Seahawk helicopters.

He served as a weapons and tactics instructor in Fallon, Nev. He also served on the aircraft carriers George H.W. Bush, Harry S Truman and George Washington. His bio also notes he had courses at the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center in Newport, R.I., last year.

He has been awarded a number of commendations and achievement medals.

Winkley and Repard write for the San Diego Union-Tribune.


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Sept. 14, 6:12 a.m.: This story has been updated throughout with San Diego Union-Tribune reporting.


This story was originally published Sept. 13 at 6:25 p.m.