BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - On Tuesday, a Gridley man was found guilty of the rape of a homeless woman in 2019.
After about four hours of deliberation, the jury found the defendant guilty of raping a woman at an Oroville homeless encampment in 2019, according to District Attorney Michael Ramsey.
Kevin Mitchell Valdez, 31, of Gridley, had been charged with forcible rape, forcible sexual assault, assault by means likely to produce great bodily harm, and false imprisonment.
The victim testified she was at Hammon Park in Oroville with her brother and some friends during the early morning hours of Aug. 14, 2019, when Valdez approached them.
Valdez offered to let the group party in a nearby home he was renovating. The victim did not know Valdez and described Valdez as making several unwanted passes at her, culminating in her pushing him off her after he kissed her, Ramsey said.
The victim told the jury she and her companions left the residence and drove to an olive orchard near the intersection of Table Mountain Blvd. and Grand Ave. in Oroville.
The victim had established a camp near a group of other homeless camps.
Valdez went with them, offering to help with one of the victim’s friends who was unconscious due to alcohol intoxication.
As the victim spread out blankets and a pillow in the bed of her pickup truck, Valdez placed his hand down her shorts. The victim tried to take out her cell phone from the cab of the truck to call for help.
Valdez then grabbed the victim around the neck, threw her to the ground, and repeatedly punched and kicked her on her head and face.
A nearby homeless woman heard the victim scream and ran to the victim’s campsite. The woman testified she saw Valdez on top of the victim.
The woman and several other homeless people who responded to the scene yelled at Valdez to stop and he ultimately fled, Ramsey said.
The victim told the jury that Valdez had just begun raping her when the responding woman and other homeless persons rescued her.
The victim drove away and called 911, meeting Oroville Police at Bedrock Park.
Officers took her to Oroville Hospital, where a nurse assigned to the Butte County Sexual Assault Response Team performed a forensic exam.
The nurse told the jury she obtained swabs from the victim’s body to identify the assailant’s DNA. She also testified to documenting multiple abrasions, bruises, and cuts all over the victim’s body, Ramsey said.
Valdez’s DNA was found on two different parts of the victim’s body according to a criminologist from the California Department of Justice Forensics Laboratory in Redding.
“The victim, in this case, was incredibly brave, taking the witness stand to face the man who beat and raped her two years before,” Deputy District Attorney Jeff Greeson, who prosecuted the case said. “Without her, we would not have been able to take this dangerous rapist off the streets. I would also like to thank the 12 jurors and three alternates that took their duties as jurors seriously and served despite the ongoing restrictions and dangers of COVID-19. Defendants in a criminal case deserve a fair trial, and without people willing to serve as jurors, our justice system simply cannot work.”
“One of the tragedies of our struggles with homelessness in our community is that homeless people are easy prey for criminals, this is especially so for homeless women,” Ramsey said. “No one deserves to go through what the victim, in this case, went through, and every person deserves to feel safe in Butte County, even if they are struggling with problems like homelessness in their life. We do not tolerate crimes against these vulnerable people, as no one is above the law nor beneath its protection.”
Butte County Superior Court Judge Kristen Lucena presided over the trial and set Valdez’s sentencing for Sept. 30.
Valdez faces 11 years and eight months in prison. He remains in Butte County Jail without bail pending sentencing.