The construction contracting company that employed an illegal immigrant arrested in the Chandler Rapist case said Monday that the suspect fooled them with false identification.
Hunter Contracting of Gilbert confirmed the employment of Santana Batiz Aceves, who was arrested Friday on suspicion of sexually assaulting five girls and attacking another in Chandler over a span of 18 months.
Aceves worked for the company as an equipment operator from Oct. 1 through Thursday, the day before his arrest. Hunter president Steve Padilla said Aceves was fired Monday for “job abandonment.”
Police have determined that Aceves was in this country illegally, but Padilla said the identification cards and a Social Security number that Aceves provided when he was hired were accepted after being checked against federal databases.
Arizona's employer sanctions law provides penalties for companies that "knowingly" hire illegal immigrants.
The next court appearance for Aceves is scheduled for Friday morning.
News of the arrest spread quickly at Andersen Junior High School in Chandler, where three of the victims were enrolled.
Andersen principal Jim Anderson said Monday marked the first time in months that school officials, parents and their daughters could say they felt the threat of a serial sexual predator was gone.
“It’s fantastic,” Anderson said. “Our kids now can breathe a sigh of relief knowing this guy is apprehended.”
Aceves, 39, stands accused of 25 felonies, including kidnapping, child molestation, sexual abuse, sexual conduct with a minor, aggravated assault, burglary and trespassing. He is believed to be responsible for attacks upon four girls and the attempted rape of two others.
According to police records, authorities learned Saturday morning that his DNA matched evidence seized from the sexual assaults.
The Chandler Rapist first struck in June 2006. As the number of attacks grew, families did what they could to keep their children safe, saying prayers when they were at school and out of sight.
At the home of the Vershum family, locks were changed and the parents occasionally slept in the beds of their daughters, ages 14 and 11, for reassurances.
“They were real scared,” mother Tammie Vershum said. “But they’re resting easy now.”
Still, the daughters plan to participate in a self-defense class tonight.
Along with the feeling of relief, another dominant emotion around Andersen was the thought precautionary measures, such as self-defense classes, must not be cast aside despite news of the arrest.
“Just because we have this bad guy in custody doesn’t mean there aren’t other bad guys still out there,” said Officer Scott Parr, the school’s student resources officer.
Parent Mike Harrison, waiting in the parking lot for 12-year-old daughter Bethani, wasn’t convinced the crimes of the Chandler Rapist were a one-man job.
“He was able to watch people’s houses — I don’t think he did it alone,” Harrison said.
Police have said all but one attack occurred when there was no adult in the residence. The rapist seemed to target girls with single parents who left for work early in the morning.
Meanwhile on Monday, police determined that Aceves has no ties to a string of sexual assaults in northern California.
Authorities in the Sacramento area had noticed connections between him and a serial predator known as the Norcal Rapist. That attacker is responsible for assaulting at least 10 women since 1991, with the most recent assault coming in October 2006.
But investigators determined Aceves and the Norcal Rapist had little in common.
“The descriptions are totally different,” Chandler Det. Frank Mendoza said.
The Norcal Rapist, as depicted by the last victim, is white, 35 to 40 years-old, around 6 feet tall, 200 to 250 lbs, with a protruding stomach.
Aceves stands 5-foot-4 and weighs 160 pounds.
Also, the Norcal Rapist targeted Asian women in their 20s, while the Chandler attacks were against girls between the ages of 12 and 15.
In addition, the release of police reports provided more details into previous attacks and the arrest of Aceves.
Among the items found in his residence was a silver and black pistol as described by the victim of a January 2007 attack, and a black ski mask similar to the one seen two weeks later by another girl.