Oroville Mercury-Register

Jury finds Gridley man guilty of raping homeless woman

- By Riley Blake rblake@chicoer.com Contact reporter Riley Blake at 530-363-9430.

OROVILLE >> After a deliberati­on that took roughly four hours, a Butte County jury ruled a Gridley man accused of raping a woman at an Oroville homeless camp in 2019 as guilty.

Kevin Mitchell Valdez, 31, of Gridley, was found guilty of forcible rape, forcible sexual assault, assault by means likely to produce great bodily harm and false imprisonme­nt.

During the trial, the victim testified she was at Hammon Park in Oroville with her brother and some friends early Aug. 14, 2019 when Valdez approached them. The victim testified Valdez offered to let the group party in a nearby home he was renovating. The victim stated she did not know Valdez and described Valdez as making several unwanted passes at her, culminatin­g in her pushing him off of her after he kissed her.

The woman told the jury she then left the residence with her friends and drove to an olive orchard near the intersecti­on of Table Mountain Boulevard and Grand Avenue in Oroville, where the woman had establishe­d a camp near a group of other homeless camps. Valdez followed, offering to help with one of the victim’s friends who was unconsciou­s due to alcohol intoxicati­on.

As the woman spread out blankets and a pillow in the bed of her pickup, Valdez attacked her. The woman then tried to obtain her cell phone from the cab of the truck in order to call for help. However, Valdez grabbed her by the neck and threw her to the ground, punching and kicking her repeatedly on her head and face.

A homeless woman nearby heard a scream and ran to the campsite. The woman testified she saw Valdez on top of the victim. The woman and several other homeless people who responded to the scene yelled at Valdez to stop before he ran away. The victim told the jury Valdez had just begun raping her when the responding woman and other homeless persons arrived.

Following the assault, the victim drove away and called 911, meeting Oroville police at Bedrock Park. Officers took her to Oroville Hospital where a Butte County Sexual Assault Response Team nurse performed a forensic exam. The nurse told the jury she obtained swabs from the victim’s body to identify the assailant’s DNA. She also testified to documentin­g multiple abrasions, bruises and cuts across the woman’s body.

A criminolog­ist from the California Department of Justice Forensics Laboratory in Redding testified at trial they had located Valdez’ DNA on two different parts of the woman’s body.

Deputy District Attorney Jeff Greeson, who prosecuted the case, spoke on the woman’s cooperatio­n at trial.

“The victim in this case was incredibly brave, taking the witness stand to face the man who beat and raped her two years before,” Greeson said.

District Attorney Mike Ramsey spoke about the frequent assaults of homeless people saying because of their circumstan­ces, they can become easy targets.

“One of the tragedies of our struggles with homelessne­ss in our community is that homeless people are easy prey for criminals, this is especially so for homeless women,” Ramsey said. “No one deserves to go through what the victim in this case went through, and every person deserves to feel safe in Butte County even if they are struggling with problems like homelessne­ss in their life. We do not tolerate crimes against these vulnerable people, as no one is above the law nor beneath its protection.”

Valdez is facing 11 years and 8 months in prison with sentencing set for Sept. 30. Butte County Superior Court Judge Kristen Lucena, who presided over the trial, will make the ruling.

Valdez is currently in Butte County Jail without bail until his sentencing.

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