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Suspect found in sexual assault case

Asuspect connected to the sexual assault of a highschool-aged jogger in Palo Alto is awaiting trial after being arrested by Palo Alto police on April 8, eight days after the initial police report was filed.

The initial crime involved a suspect, armed with a handgun, pulling the victim off of a popular jogging and walking path before sexually assaulting her.

“The Title IX office has an obligation to launch an investigation into this matter, and we intend to review all of the facts that we can gather,” said Title IX coordinator Megan Farrell.

In the investigation following the assault, detectives determined the identity of the primary suspect as Eduardo Antonio Chavarria-Diaz, a 29-year-old male and resident of Richmond, Calif. There was additionally newfound evidence linking Chavarria-Diaz to a similar assault in Oakland, Calif. on March 4, under the jurisdiction of the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department, where a woman was robbed, beaten and sexually assaulted by the suspect. According to East Bay Regional Park District Police Lt. Gretchen Rose, Chavarria-Diaz’s DNA was found at both crime scenes.

Detectives from the Palo Alto Police Department obtained an arrest warrant for Chavarria-Diaz on April 7, and with the assistance of investigators from the East Bay Regional Park District Police Department, arrested the suspect at 11 a.m. on April 8.

Chavarria-Diaz is currently in the Santa Clara County Main Jail and faces charges of assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping and sexual penetration by force, with possible additional charges in the future. All of the charges are felonies, and stem from the alleged assault of the high-school jogger on the pedestrian path parallel to Arastradero Road on March 28.

According to the police department’s news release, the victim was jogging on the path when the suspect “emerged from the greenbelt and pulled the victim off of the path, placed a gun to her head and sexually assaulted her.”

Subsequently, the suspect fled on foot while the victim stopped a passerby to call for help. The Palo Alto police’s 24-hour dispatch received the call at 1:47 p.m. and arrived immediately at the scene.The victim was quickly transported to the local hospital, and is in a stable physical condition.

The news release said officers and detectives “conducted an extensive search of the area,” with the assistance of deputies from the Stanford Department of Public Safety, officers a canine from the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety and officers and a helicopter from the California Highway Patrol.

After the later arrest of the suspect, detectives are continuing their investigation to determine if Chavarria-Diaz was involved in any other crimes.

In an interview with the Palo Alto Weekly on April 9, Capt. Zach Perron of the Palo Alto Police Department said, “While I think I sense a collective sigh of relief from the community and that’s good, at the same time we want to caution people that they shouldn’t let their guard down just because we have this person in custody.”

There are many who agree with this sentiment and urge Palo Alto residents to avoid ‘being alone and increase their situational awareness.

“The scary thing is that it happened in broad daylight,” said Assistant Principal Janice Chen. “Typically we think that we live in a very safe place and it’s scary to think that something this horrific happened. I think one lesson to be learned is just to make sure you’re never alone . . . and always be aware of your surroundings.”

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