BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The boy’s family was moving when he walked to their new home the morning of July 27, 2007, to grab a gas can.
The 6-year-old’s father told him to go ahead and he would follow in a moment. He hadn’t been gone long when he returned and shared a horrifying story: He had been sexually assaulted.
He told his father a man parked in front of the house and asked if it was for sale. The boy entered the backyard and the man followed.
The child gave a graphic description to his father, and later to Bakersfield police detectives, of what the man did to him, according to court documents.
What followed was a lengthy investigation in which gravel seized from outside the home and surveillance video that captured the suspect vehicle were the principal pieces of evidence. Years passed without an arrest, then a decade. Still more time went by without a break in the case.
Until last month. That’s when Paul Strategos, 44, was taken into custody on four felony charges.
Strategos is suspected not only in the 2007 sexual assault; court documents say he’s a suspect in multiple sexual assaults that occurred within the jurisdiction of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office. Two of those cases involve assaults against boys that occurred in a similar manner to the 2007 assault, the filings say.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Danielle Kernkamp did not return an email seeking comment Monday morning.
Assistant District Attorney Joseph Kinzel said the sheriff’s office has submitted information in connection with other assaults but a decision on whether to file charges hasn’t been made.
The documents provide a detailed account of the investigation, and of Strategos’ interview with detectives.
When told the investigation left no doubt he sexually assaulted the boy, Strategos responded, “I don’t remember doing it,” the documents say.
He is being held without bail and is due back in court July 15.
No suspects, little evidence
Police canvassed the area after interviewing the boy that morning in 2007 but found no sign of the white, bearded man with a heavy build the child had described.
A surveillance camera recorded a black Chevrolet HHR driven by a white man stop near the boy. That footage led detectives to obtain a list of all black HHRs sold from a Kern dealership in the past 2 1/2 years and track down the owners.
Investigators performed a records check of registered sex offenders in the area. A community meeting was held to discuss the case and maybe obtain more information.
No suspects were identified.
Additionally, investigators experienced difficulties in interviewing the boy, who had been diagnosed as autistic.
One detective wrote in the documents he didn’t believe the child was able to tell the difference between a truth and a lie. A doctor examined the boy and found no physical evidence of sexual assault.
But quick thinking on the father’s part helped preserve key evidence. The father noticed some rocks that appeared wet in the gravel area where the boy indicated the assault took place, according to the documents.
He brought the rocks to the doctor who examined his son and they were booked as evidence and submitted to the Kern Regional Crime Lab. They tested positive for semen.
The DNA sample was entered into the FBI’s database but no match was found. DNA swabs obtained from people during the course of the investigation also didn’t return a hit.
There were no further leads. The case went cold.
14 years later, a match
The boy grew up and moved out of state.
On May 14, the now-20-year-old received an unexpected phone call.
Bakersfield police Detective Joshua Deutinger was on the line and said he was about to email a photographic lineup of six people. The detective told him to let him know if any of them looked familiar.
The email arrived. The man reviewed the photos.
Then he told the detective he recognized the man in the No. 6 position. Fourteen years had gone by, but he said he was 65 percent certain the man in that photo was the one who sexually assaulted him.
The man he identified was Strategos, the documents say.
A day before that phone call, police received a hit on the DNA evidence seized in 2007. The DNA match was for Strategos. He had been arrested in October on a charge of possession of ammunition by a prohibited person and his DNA entered into a database, according to the filings.
A records check showed Strategos in 2007 lived about 2 1/2 miles from where the sexual assault occurred, according to the documents. He moved to Tehachapi six months later.
Armed with the new evidence, detectives arrested Strategos on May 18 in Tehachapi.
Police took Strategos to an interview room where two detectives questioned him.
He confirmed his prior address in Bakersfield but said he was never in the neighborhood where the assault occurred, according to the documents. He told detectives he didn’t have friends or family living in that area and had no reason to go there.
Detectives asked him to name every vehicle he has owned. Strategos listed five, none of them an HHR.
They asked if he ever drove any other vehicles. A detective placed a photo of of the HHR before him. Strategos said he bought an HHR for work while living in Bakersfield in 2006 or 2007, the documents say. He said the vehicle in the photo looked similar to his.
Next, detectives showed him a picture of the victim when he was 6. They asked Strategos if he had ever seen the boy. They explained he had been sexually assaulted.
Strategos denied ever seeing or sexually assaulting the boy, the documents say. A detective explained the evidence gathered showed Strategos was responsible for the crime.
Strategos said, “I don’t remember doing it,” according to the documents.
Asked if he suffers from blackouts or amnesia, Strategos said he has obsessive-compulsive disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia, the filings say. Detectives asked if it was possible he sexually assaulted someone.
“I don’t know,” Strategos said according to the documents. He said he has been accused of sexual assault on three prior occasions, the documents say.
Detectives continued to ask questions until Strategos leaned forward and back then grabbed his chest, the documents say. He appeared to be having a medical emergency and was taken to a local hospital.
A doctor examined Strategos but found nothing to explain why he had experienced chest pain.
“I guess I just had anxiety,” Strategos told a detective who accompanied him to the hospital.
The detective drove him from the hospital and booked him into jail.