MURRIETA – With pretrial motions dragging on, jury selection is not expected to get underway until later this month for the trial of a man accused of sexually assaulting two women — one of whom died — during break- ins at a senior apartment complex in Hemet.
Kenneth Daniels, 26, of San Jacinto could face the death penalty if convicted of a dozen felony charges, including first-degree murder, elder abuse, forcible rape and special circumstance allegations of killing during the commission of a rape and during the commission of a burglary.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Angel Bermudez continued to hear arguments today from the defense and prosecution regarding evidence and witnesses to be submitted during trial.
All pretrial motions will likely be completed by the end of next week, and during the week of June 24, some 320 prospective jurors will be summoned to Bermudez’s Murrieta courtroom for questioning as to their availability and qualifications.
Opening statements in the case are tentatively set for July 8, Deputy District Attorney Jess Walsh told City News Service.
Daniels, who has been in custody without bail since Dec. 28, 2007, is accused in three separate assaults — two of which involved the same woman — at the Oak Terrace Apartments, 551 N. Santa Fe St.
The gated facility is reserved for residents 55 years and over.
Daniels allegedly broke into the apartment complex in the predawn hours of Aug. 21, Oct. 19 and Dec. 11, 2007. In the latter instance, 74-year-old Rosemarie Edwin was beaten to death.
Daniels allegedly forced his way into the wheelchair-dependent victim’s apartment and attempted to sexually assault her, but she apparently resisted. Daniels repeatedly struck the woman in the head, inflicting fatal injuries, prosecutors allege.
During the Aug. 21 and Oct. 19 attacks, the defendant allegedly pushed open an unlocked balcony door to access a then-63-year-old woman’s flat.
During a July 2008 preliminary hearing, the victim, identified in court documents only as Jane Doe, testified that she had fallen asleep in her recliner while watching television and awoke to find Daniels in her kitchen.
She said she initially thought she was having a nightmare but soon realized there was an intruder present and tried to flee out the front door.
The victim testified that Daniels — whom she positively identified — punched her in the head, knocking her down, then pummeled her until gaining her full compliance. According to the victim, the defendant forced her to orally copulate him because he was having difficulty getting an erection, then he ”did his business and got up.”
After the rape, the woman testified that Daniels gestured to her telephone, saying ”There’s the phone; I gotta go now.”
According to the victim, she suffered a fractured cheek bone, broken eye socket, several chipped teeth and a badly dislocated shoulder. She was still in recovery when, almost exactly two months later, Daniels allegedly returned, breaking into her apartment the same way he had before.
”And I said, ‘No, not again. Please no, not again,”’ the woman testified.
She alleged that Daniels replied, ”You know the rules,” and forced her into the bedroom and raped her, leaving soon afterward.
She moved out of the apartment weeks later.
After Edwin’s death, Hemet police officers began staking out the complex on a nightly basis. Around 2 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2007, a suspect clad in dark clothing was seen jumping a fence ringing the building, and officers began tailing him. They lost sight of him briefly, and about that time, a resident called 911 screaming that a man was trying to break into her apartment.
According to Hemet police, officers spotted the suspect leaving the location and attempted to stop him, at which point a struggle ensued, with officers having to forcibly restrain the 6-foot-3, 185-pound defendant.
About eight months after charges were filed in the case, then-District Attorney Rod Pacheco said Daniels’ alleged ”vicious and remorseless acts … against an elderly and particularly vulnerable victim more than justify the ultimate penalty.”