Man pleads no contest to sexual assault of woman in front of her children in Modesto park

02/21/2014 2:45 PM

02/21/2014 10:17 PM

A 28-year-old man faces up to 10 years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in front of her two young children in Modesto’s Mancini Park in fall 2012.

Defendant Stephaughn Darrell Meux unexpectedly pleaded no contest to rape and a misdemeanor count of inflicting injury upon a child during a pretrial hearing Thursday, according to the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office. His case had not reached the preliminary hearing phase, and prosecutors did not offer him a plea deal.

Investigators have said Meux attacked the woman in broad daylight.

The defendant is hoping Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden will offer some leniency April 2, when Meux is scheduled to be sentenced. Deputy District Attorney Merrill Hoult will be seeking the maximum sentence for the defendant.

The assault occurred about 2:40 p.m. Oct. 18, 2012, at the park, just south of the Tuolumne River and east of South Ninth Street. Modesto police officers arrived and learned that the woman, who was with her children, ages 1 and 8, had been attacked by a stranger.

Investigators have said the man approached the woman, punched her in the face and pulled her to the ground.

She was holding her 1-year-old child in her arms at the time, and the man’s attack caused the child to fall to the ground. Once Meux pulled the woman to the ground, he sexually assaulted her, police have said.

Another woman saw the assault and quickly grabbed the two children before running to get help. Police said investigators collected physical evidence, including the attacker’s DNA.

Meux’s case was suspended after the defendant’s mental health came into question, and his June 26 preliminary hearing was canceled.

In July, McFadden determined Meux was not mentally competent to stand trial based on a report from a forensic psychologist who evaluated the defendant. The psychologist recommended that the defendant be given psychotropic medication to regain his mental competency.

Meux was sent to Napa State Hospital for treatment before he was returned to the Stanislaus County jail in December. The court had since determined Meux was mentally fit to face his charges.

The defendant remains in custody at the jail. Authorities have said Meux is a transient, and his last known address was in Fresno. He was booked at the jail under an alias, John Lelan Carter.

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