Woman uses broken glass to fight off attacker in Ceres

02/19/2014 10:34 AM

02/19/2014 9:15 PM

A woman used a shard of glass to fight off her much-larger attacker, who had been released from jail the night before, authorities said Wednesday.

According to Ceres police, the incident began at 9:09 a.m. Tuesday, when 18-year-old Aaron Modisett-Hollie of Stockton was wandering a neighborhood and saw a woman in her yard. He waited for her to enter the home, tried the locked front door and then broke a window to get inside, police said.

The victim, identified only as a 34-year-old woman who stands 5-foot-3 and weighs 120 pounds, heard the glass break and tried to push the 5-foot-10, 220-pound Modisett-Hollie back out, authorities said. He got inside, but the woman grabbed a shard of glass from the broken window and confronted him. He got her in a bear hug and threw her on the ground, but she fought back, cutting Modisett-Hollie and inflicting puncture wounds to his head, neck and body.

Modisett-Hollie released the woman and acted as though he planned to leave, authorities said, then lunged at the victim again. “He retreated when she did not back down, raising her makeshift weapon in defense of her life,” police said in a news release.

Police were called to the scene and got medical assistance for the woman, who was bleeding from injuries suffered in the struggle. A witness told police of seeing a man matching Modisett-Hollie’s description scaling two fences before knocking on the door of a nearby home to ask the resident for a ride. When the resident refused, the man broke a fence board and ran away.

The homeowner reported the incident immediately, and dispatchers were able to direct officers to Modisett-Hollie’s location. He was taken into custody in a field in the 2100 block of Moffet Road. He was treated at the scene for his injuries and refused further medical assistance before being taken in for questioning, authorities said.

Modisett-Hollie had been released from the Stanislaus County Jail the day before, police said. He had been in custody since his 18th birthday.

Ceres Police Chief Art de Werk said in the news release, “I admire the courageousness of the woman who instinctively knew she had to defend herself. At the same time, I regret the trauma she has endured..”

DeWerk also expressed frustration with a judicial system that releases people such as Modisett-Hollie.

“While there may be some facts surrounding the judicial process that I am unaware of, it makes me very angry that we had a person who was clearly a predator released back into our community,” he said. “We must do more to keep criminals like this from victimizing others. Today we saw the perfect alignment of people in the community doing exactly what is right and working as a team with police to reach a successful resolution, now let’s hope that the system does not fail us again.”

Sheriff Adam Christianson said his department is doing the best it can with limited resources and the challenge of state realignment law, which sends some inmates who would have gone to state prison back to the counties. Though that law, known as AB109, applies to nonviolent, non-sex offenders and does not apply to inmates such as Modisett-Hollie, the law exacerbated an already overcrowded jail system.

“This situation is a direct consequence of realignment (AB109) and one that I warned the community about back in early 2011,” Christianson said in an email Wednesday afternoon, adding that his department struggled with jail capacity before realignment. “Even though we have a significant number of program opportunities and we’re able to manage our average daily population (ADP) through programming and the Alternative Work Program, we’re still forced to accelerate early release to manage our ADP.”

Christianson said Modisett-Hollie had been arrested Dec. 2, 2013, on charges of kidnapping for robbery or a sex crime, assault with the intent to commit felony mayhem or rape, and false imprisonment. On Feb. 10, Modisett-Hollie was sentenced to 365 days on the assault charge. He got 94 days of credit for time served, with 181 more days of credit for good behavior and work. He had 89 days left to serve and had a release date of May 9.

On Monday, Modisett-Hollie was released seven days into that remaining sentence.

“We house the worst of the worst and we’re forced to release the best of the worst, all due to realignment and jail bed capacity,” Christianson said.

The situation is far from ideal, said Christianson, whose department also has had to close portions of the jail because of insufficient staffing. That problem will be partially alleviated when the department graduates 11 deputies from the academy. Recruitment efforts also continue, with interviews of potential new hires conducted all day Wednesday.

Christianson said his department is pushing hard to build an addition to the Public Safety Center on Hackett Road that would house more AB109 inmates. “Our goal is to balance ADP and programming opportunities, all while keeping the community safe in a world with a finite amount of money and resources.”

He noted that the current case will send Modisett-Hollie, if convicted, to state prison.

Modisett-Hollie was booked Wednesday at the Stanislaus County Jail on charges of attempted rape, assault with the attempt to commit rape, burglary and probation violation.

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