A man who robbed three women and attempted to sexually assault two of them after deliberately causing fender-benders that prompted the victims to pull over late at night on Interstate 215 in Riverside was sentenced Monday to 14 years in state prison and ordered to register as a sex offender for life.
Joseph Pete Macias, 35, pleaded guilty last month to assault with intent to commit rape, penetration of a victim with a foreign object, assault likely to produce great bodily injury and a sentence-enhancing allegation of using a weapon in the commission of a sexual offense.
"You followed me, robbed me, stripped me and hurt me badly," the sole victim who spoke at the sentencing hearing told the defendant. "You put me through hell, but I put up one helluva fight. I screamed and fought to get away from you -- the wicked, evil, coward that you are."
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The petite young woman, identified only by her initials, D.R., partially recounted what happened to her in the predawn hours last Dec. 29.
She said that after Macias rear-ended her vehicle on northbound Interstate 215, near Blaine Street, she stopped on the freeway shoulder to inspect the damage and was immediately attacked.
"You told me, 'Shut up, bitch, or I'll kill you,''' she recalled. "I will never forget the sound of your voice."
Macias brandished a knife and attempted to rape the woman, who managed to wriggle free and flee onto the Blaine exit ramp, running to a business for help as Macias sped away.
"I'm still dealing with what happened to me that night," she said.
"What caused your rage, anger and demonic behavior? The pain you inflicted on me and the other women is irreversible."
The newly married woman said that, despite the emotional scars, she was willing to forgive the defendant, who sat in an orange jail jumper, shackled at the feet and hands, listening to her statement as she made eye contact with him several times.
"I just want you to know, I'm truly sorry for what I did," Macias said minutes later, when Riverside County Superior Court Judge Samuel Diaz gave him an opportunity to speak.
"I have two daughters and two sisters, and I wouldn't want someone to do something like this to them," the defendant said.
In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped three counts of robbery, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count each of making criminal threats and assault with intent to commit rape.
The first assault occurred during the overnight hours last Dec. 6, when Macias "bumped" a vehicle driven by a woman identified in court documents as "T.F." on the I-215 near Cajalco Road, on the north end of Perris.
The victim got out of her vehicle to confront the defendant, who brandished a knife and snatched her mobile phone, then fled. She was uninjured.
According to Riverside police investigators, Macias targeted the second victim, identified as "J.C.," in the predawn hours of Dec. 23.
The woman had stopped at a gas station on University Avenue, just off of I-215, and became aware of trouble as she left the station shortly after 1 a.m., spotting a dark compact SUV tailing her southbound, according to Riverside police Sgt. Michael Cobb.
When she exited the freeway at Central Avenue several miles away, the stalker "intentionally struck the back of her vehicle," prompting the woman to pull to the side of the road, near Sycamore Canyon Boulevard, Cobb said.
He said Macias came at the victim with a knife, grabbed several of her belongings and tried to force himself on her, but she resisted and fled the location with minor injuries.
The woman who testified at the sentencing was targeted and assaulted in a similar manner six days later.
Detectives were able to obtain information on the vehicle used in the attacks and soon after identified Macias, who had no prior documented felony convictions, as the perpetrator. He was arrested without a struggle at his Winslow Street residence in Riverside last Dec. 30.
"This case is really any woman's nightmare," Deputy District Attorney John Henry told City News Service outside the courtroom. "Being forced off the road in the dead of night and then being attacked -- it's a nightmare. By the grace of God, things didn't end worse than they did for these victims."