WOMAN STABBED IN SEX ATTACK; MOTORIST ACCEPTS RIDE AFTER CAR RUNS OUT OF GAS.
A man stabbed a 32-year-old Simi Valley woman and tried to rape her late Sunday after offering her a ride when her car ran out of gas in the middle of town, police said.
Officers said the assault is not connected to a serial rapist who has attacked seven Simi Valley women, usually in their homes, since 1996. But it is a reminder that even residents of the nation's safest city need to take big-city precautions.
``There is no connection at all between this incident and the rapes and attempted rapes that have occurred,'' said Simi Valley police Lt. Neal Rein. ``The sexual assault may be similar, but that's where the similarity ends.''
The woman suffered a collapsed lung and was in stable condition at Simi Valley Hospital on Monday, police said.
Police said the woman had car trouble at an undisclosed address late Sunday evening and a passer-by offered to give her a lift. The woman accepted, and the suspect drove her to a building site in the 80 block of Wildlife Drive, where he demanded sex.
The woman resisted, and a scuffle ensued. Stabbed and fleeing her assailant, the woman screamed for help in the upscale neighborhood, where new homes are under construction and some families have already moved in.
Police recovered a small knife, believed to belong to the victim, at the scene. It was unknown if the assailant was injured.
The attempted rape was the ninth sexual assault in Simi Valley so far this year, and at least one incident has been attributed to a serial rapist who has assaulted five women and raped two since 1996.
In those cases, the rapist enters homes, usually through an unlocked window or door, and has been known to assault his victims while other members of the household are asleep nearby.
Police continue to investigate leads in the case of the serial rapist, whose attacks are sporadic and who has gone up to six months between incidents. They have questioned more than two dozen suspects, some of whom have submitted biological samples for DNA comparison to those found at the crime scenes. While some suspects have been released new ones have come under scrutiny, police said.
``We're still actively pursuing the case and submitting biological samples,'' said Lt. Ken Tacke. ``Unfortunately, I can't tell you we've narrowed it down to one subject.''
The serial rapist last struck March 22, when he raped a 15-year-old girl in her home while relatives slept nearby.
Simi Valley reported 15 rapes and attempted rapes in 1997, more than any east county city except Thousand Oaks, which reported 19 in 1997.
The Ventura County Sheriff's Department reported 30 rapes and attempted rapes in 1997 in the east county cities of Camarillo, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks, up from 17 in 1996. In 1997 there were seven in Camarillo, four in Moorpark and 19 in Thousand Oaks.
Simi Valley also saw an increase in rapes and attempted rapes over the past two years, from 12 in 1996 to 15 in 1997, police said.
Police cautioned that even in Simi Valley, the nation's safest city according to last year's FBI crime statistics, residents need to use caution.
That means locking windows and doors at night, especially in the hot summer months when criminals prey on open homes, and avoiding strangers, police said.
Even in the nation's safest city, where residents may feel safe enough to ask a passer-by for help, Simi Valley police offer these safety tips for when your car breaks down on the road:
Don't accept rides from strangers.
Call for help if a telephone or call box is nearby. If there's no friend or family member available to help you, call the Police Department at 583-6950.
Sit in the car and wait for help. Police patrol all areas of the city, including the least developed, and will probably eventually pass by.
Lock all doors and use the horn or other signal devices to notify passing police of your trouble.
If you must walk for help, try to wait until daylight hours.
BOX: SAFETY TIPS (See text)