Two 36-year-old men accused of raping an 11-year-old girl multiple times in Santa Ana in 1999 pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple felonies.
Ismael F. Salgado of Chicago, who was arrested Oct. 14, and Jose Andres Plascencia, who was brought back to Orange County this week, face one count each of kidnapping to commit rape and five counts each of rape, all felonies, according to police and court records.
Both men are due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Dec. 14, and are being held on $1 million bail.
Plascencia's attorney, Maria Cavalluzzi, declined comment, but said she plans to challenge the bail amount.
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Salgado's attorney, Frank Bittar, said, "We vigorously deny these charges."
He said his client lived in Santa Ana for most of his life and recently moved to Chicago, where he has family, Bittar said. Salgado said the accusations hit him "like a ton of bricks," according to Bittar.
The defendants are accused of picking up the 11-year-old as she walked home with a friend near Jerome Center in Santa Ana around 5:30 p.m. Feb. 3, 1999, according to Santa Ana police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.
As they pulled up alongside the girls they tried to talk them into the car, but the 11-year-old girl said she didn't want to, prompting one of the men to grab her and force her into the vehicle along with her friend, Bertagna said.
The friend managed to get away, but when the other girl tried to make her escape she was dragged back into the car by her hair, Bertagna said.
The defendants drove to a gas station near Raitt Street and Edinger Avenue and fueled up the car while one of the men held his hand over the girl's mouth so she couldn't summon help, Bertagna said.
The girl was sexually assaulted in a "secluded" parking lot in Santa Ana, then was driven to another parking area where she was sexually assaulted again, Bertagna said.
Detectives were not able to make any arrests at the time, but investigators reopened the case recently and submitted DNA evidence to the county's crime lab, Bertagna said.
A DNA match was made with Salgado, who lived in Santa Ana for most of his life but recently moved to Chicago, Bertagna said. DNA evidence also pointed to another man, who was not in the system, Bertagna said.
So police began looking at "known associates" of Salgado at the time of the attack and narrowed in on Plascencia when the victim identified him from a photograph, Bertagna said.
Plascencia, who is living in Laveen, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix, was placed under surveillance, Bertagna said. Investigators collected a discarded water bottle Plascencia drank from at a local gym and sent it to the crime lab, which matched his DNA to the evidence collected at the 1999 rapes, Bertagna alleged.
Salgado was arrested at his home in Chicago on Oct. 5. He made his first court appearance Oct. 17.
Plascencia was arrested Nov. 6 at a border crossing in Nogales, Arizona, Bertagna said.