A preliminary hearing began Wednesday for an ex-con accused of kidnapping and raping a 10-year-old girl he discovered while burglarizing homes in Northridge.
Tobias Dustin Summers, 32, and alleged getaway driver Daniel Martinez, 29, face possible life sentences in prison if they're held to answer and convicted at trial.
Both have pleaded not guilty, and efforts to resolve the case with new guilty pleas fell apart minutes before the preliminary hearing began.
Summers' defense attorney Jeffrey Yannuck said he thought prosecutors would accept his offer of a guilty plea with a promised sentence of 50 years in prison, but said it appeared supervisors at the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office had not yet approved the deal.
The hearing began with Deputy District Attorney Laura Jackson calling LAPD detective Carla Zuniga to summarize the account of the victim, identified by first name only in court.
"She was asleep in bed when a man came up to her and pointed a knife at her throat," Zuniga says the girl told her in an interview the day after the abduction, and described being forced out of her home and into an alley, where the two were picked up by another man police say was Martinez.
"She thought she was going to die," Zuniga said the girl told her.
The girl observed Summers' Superman and other tattoos, and told the detective she was driven to a truck storage yard, a park with a tunnel, and to a vacant home where she was sexually assaulted and raped repeatedly.
"She said he had a brown leather belt tied around her neck, and said he would tighten it if she made any noise," Det. Zuniga testified. Summers repeatedly threatened the girl with a knife and told her he would kill her family if she told anyone what happened.
Later, Zuniga said the girl described being forced to wash herself in the bathtub of the vacant home.
The girl told police Summers said it was, "to wash the DNA off of her," because, "they would check inside her and catch him with DNA.
Summers was charged with three dozen felonies after the kidnapping on March 27th, in which prosecutors said he slipped into the girl's home near’ Roscoe Blvd. sometime around 3:00 a.m. through an unlocked sliding glass door.
Police said they suspected Summers and Martinez were prowling the neighborhood looking for homes to burglarize when Summers discovered the girl asleep in her bed and held a knife to her throat.
Martinez, they said, had gone along as a thief but was surprised when Summers emerged from a home carrying the girl.
She was released around 3:00 p.m. near a Starbucks coffee store in Warner Center.
The sources said Summers may have intended to return her to her neighborhood but was scared away by dozens of police officers and federal agents who'd gathered to investigate the kidnapping.
Summers fled to San Diego in the days after the abduction, according to documents filed in federal court, hiding out with a friend before crossing into Mexico at the Tecate border crossing.
A $25,000 reward publicized in Mexico may have led to Summers' capture in April, when he was tracked down by FBI agents and Mexican authorities. Summers had checked-in to a private drug rehab facility under a fake name but was recognized from a distinctive Superman tattoo, authorities said.
While he was in Mexico the Los Angeles County District Attorneys Office filed 37 felony charges including kidnapping, burglary, and dozens of sexual assault counts.
Martinez was arrested by LAPD Robbery Homicide detectives within a few days of the abduction.
L.A. Superior Court Judge Lloyd M. Nash signaled plea negotiations were in the works at a hearing September 23 scheduled to set a date for a preliminary hearing.
At a follow up hearing October 3, defense lawyers for both men said their clients were ready to admit guilt but said prosecutors couldn't decide whether or not to accept the offers.
Nash was overheard telling a prosecutor he was growing frustrated with delays in the case and was eager to 'resolve' charges against both men with guilty pleas - in order to avoid forcing the victim to testify in court.
-- Eric Leonard at the San Fernando Courthouse