BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Twenty-six years after Cari Anderson was raped, beaten and left for dead, trial has begun for the man accused of carrying out the vicious attack.

Michael Allen Fontes, 49, faces a life term in prison if convicted of charges including attempted murder, aggravated mayhem, kidnapping and rape.

It’s alleged that on Nov. 23, 1997, Fontes left the Buckhorn Bar with Cari Anderson, then 39, attacked her and left her behind Golden Empire Transit’s maintenance yard off Golden State Highway and F Street. A GET employee found Anderson unconscious hours later and got help.

Anderson suffered permanent injuries and died in late 2021 at the age of 63, living long enough to hear of Fontes’ arrest.

Former 17 News reporter Olivia LaVoice told Anderson’s story in 2018, detailing her struggles and quest for justice.

The investigation in 2019 narrowed to Fontes and his brother, according to police reports. Fontes’ DNA matched that of genetic material left by the suspect at the crime scene. The brother wasn’t a match and wasn’t charged.

During his opening statement, prosecutor Ken Russell said the Buckhorn’s bartender offered Anderson a ride home that night but she decided to leave with two men with whom she’d been drinking and playing pool.

The bartender had become concerned because Anderson was carrying $3,000 in cash from a disability check, Russell said. Earlier, he noticed a thick wad of bills sticking out of her purse and told her to hide the money from view.

The cash was never recovered.

Anderson’s injuries included extensive bruising on her face and body and a slit throat. She suffered “extreme blood loss,” the cold temperatures that night likely preventing her from bleeding to death, Russell said. Her core body temperature dropped below 90 degrees by the time she arrived at Kern Medical.

Defense attorney Sebastien Bauge said what Anderson went through was “awful,” but all Fontes did was have sex with her, nothing more. She may have gone to other bars after she and Fontes separated, he said. She may have met other people.

The deputy public defender urged the jury to pay close attention to statements Anderson and others made, and how some accounts became “very different” over the years.

He pointed out Anderson later identified two other people as her attackers — not Fontes or his brother.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we want there to be justice for Mrs. Anderson, but this isn’t it,” Bauge said. The trial will continue this afternoon and then court won’t be in session until Aug. 18. It’s expected to finish by mid-September.