Woodland Hills Man Gets Maximum Sentence for Sexual Assaults on Hikers and Sleeping Women

Woodland Hills Man Gets Maximum Sentence for Sexual Assaults on Hikers and Sleeping Women

A Ventura County jury convicted Edgar Rodriguez Ruelas, of Woodland Hills, California, May 2, 2024, for sexually assaulting five females. (Ventura County District Attorney’s Office)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

6/6/2024

Updated: 6/6/2024

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A Woodland Hills, California, man was sentenced to 32 years to life plus 21 years in state prison June 5—the maximum sentence allowed by law—after he was convicted of assaulting five women in their homes and on hiking trails.
Edgar Rodriguez Ruelas, 42, was found guilty May 2 of five felony counts related to the assaults that occurred between June 2017 and March 2020, according to the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.
Jurors also found him guilty of three aggravating factors, including an allegation that Mr. Ruelas represented a serious danger to society.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Brent Nibecker, who prosecuted the case, said he hoped the sentence delivers justice to the victims.
“Thanks to the five brave women who faced Ruelas in court, he will hopefully never be free to attack again,” Mr. Nibecker said. “While we cannot replace the sense of security he took, I hope this life sentence delivers the justice they so richly deserve.”
According to the district attorney the first incident happened on June 15, 2017, when Mr. Ruelas assaulted a 25-year-old woman after entering her Thousand Oaks apartment through an unlocked door.
Mr. Ruelas tried to force the victim onto her bed, but she fought back and was able to yell for her roommate after a brief struggle, leading Mr. Ruelas to flee, the district attorney’s office said.
Then a month later, Mr. Ruelas assaulted another woman who was hiking alone at about 5:45 a.m. in Wildwood Regional Park in Thousand Oaks, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Reports describe Mr. Ruelas stalking the hiker through the park before jumping out from behind bushes. He was wearing all black clothing and a face covering. Mr. Ruelas took the woman to the ground, straddled her, and groped her, according to the district attorney’s office.
Mr. Ruelas fled after the woman told him she had called her husband and the police.
Surveillance video captured a vehicle owned by Mr. Ruelas speeding away from the trailhead and through the surrounding neighborhood. The vehicle was later found at Mr. Ruelas’ Woodland Hills apartment complex, authorities said.
Another incident happened Oct. 25, 2017, when Mr. Ruelas entered a Thousand Oaks apartment through an open door while a woman and her boyfriend were sleeping.
The woman awoke to find Mr. Ruelas standing over her. He allegedly placed one hand over the victim’s mouth and sexually assaulted her. The victim was able to call out to her boyfriend and Mr. Ruelas fled. The victim’s boyfriend chased him down and struggled with him, but Mr. Ruelas broke free and ran away, according to reports.
The next incident happened April 12, 2019, at about 5:40 p.m. on a hiking trail in Oak Park in southeastern Ventura County.
During the attack, Mr. Ruelas reportedly emerged from brushes along the trail, again dressed in black and a ski mask. He tackled a female victim to the ground and grabbed at her clothes while she fought back. The victim screamed for help and struggled with Mr. Ruelas. The victim told her attacker that others knew where she was, causing him to flee.
The fifth attack was against a 16-year-old girl who was hiking on a trail near her home in Oak Park on March 5, 2020. Mr. Ruelas again jumped out of the bushes and pushed the girl to the ground, using his hand to cover her mouth. The victim screamed for help and struck Mr. Ruelas with a ukulele she was carrying. She escaped down the trail and found a neighbor who helped her call 911.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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