SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A 35-year-old South Bay electrician accused of pulling a gun on a woman at a City Heights bus stop, then abducting and raping her, pleaded not guilty Friday to eight felony charges, including kidnapping and forcible rape.
Valentino Manofo Tafilele faces up to 124 years to life in prison if convicted of kidnapping, forcible rape, forcible oral copulation, robbery and making criminal threats, said Deputy District Attorney Lisa Fox.
Judge David Szumowski ordered Tafilele, of National City, held in lieu of $3 million bail and scheduled a status conference for next Friday. A preliminary hearing was set for July 25.
San Diego police pulled over Tafilele about 4:45 a.m. Wednesday as he drove his late-model Jeep Cherokee in the 3500 block of University Avenue, a block west of the scene of the kidnapping, San Diego police sex-crimes Lt. Chuck Kaye said.
Officers made the stop after noticing that the vehicle was generally similar to the one driven by the assailant and had a broken passenger's-side taillight, as described by the victim. They arrested him for allegedly being in possession of a loaded gun and a set of brass knuckles and took him to police headquarters for questioning, Kaye said.
The armed abduction occurred about 4:30 a.m. July 3. The tall and heavyset kidnapper forced the 35-year-old victim into a light-colored SUV parked in a nearby alley, then drove her to a secluded spot and raped her before setting her free, police said.
Detectives identified Tafilele, who is married and has children, as the alleged perpetrator due to close matches with the woman's descriptions of the assailant, his vehicle and items inside it, according to Kaye. DNA comparisons were pending, the lieutenant said.