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The Latest – Friday, Sept. 10

3:30 p.m.

Pineda-Pimentel’s bail has been increased to $1 million by a Tuolumne County judge, citing community safety on Friday.

Original story below:

TURLOCK, Calif. (KTXL) — Turlock police said a suspected serial rapist is behind bars, but detectives now face a complicated case that spans multiple years. 

Joseph Frank Pineda-Pimentel of Denair faces multiple sexual assault charges after his DNA was tested by investigators. 

“We have our suspicions that, yes, this is a prolific serial rapist,” said Turlock Police Lt. Neil Cervenka. 

The investigation began when an unhoused woman told police she had been raped on June 14 by a man who picked her up in a dark-colored SUV. 

Police said the woman claimed she was on Geer Road when the man offered her a ride and said he would “help her out.” She declined his offer at first but accepted it after he persisted, police reported.

That’s when she said the man drove her behind a closed business and raped her. Turlock police said the woman consented to a medical investigation, and biological evidence led to a DNA match on Aug. 30 that allegedly tied Pineda-Pimentel to the crime. 

“We were notified that his DNA matched two other sexual assaults in other counties,” Cervenka said. 

Detectives believe at least two of his victims were homeless and were targeted because they were walking alone. They said he offered both of them rides. 

“Be very persistent about giving them a ride, saying he’s a nice guy and he’s here to help them out, offer them something to eat, or somewhere to hang out or relax. Then he would, once they finally got into the car with him, he would take them to where they did not want to go,” Cervenka said. “Usually behind a closed business, and then forcibly raped them.”

He was arrested in south Modesto on Sept. 2. 

“Located him with another young homeless woman in the front seat who had he had just picked up and offered a ride and something to eat, and we believe that she was going to be his next victim,” Cervenka said. 

The suspect’s DNA record was from the military when he was arrested and charged with rape in 2009. The case was ultimately dismissed. 

“Several of these crimes have spanned several years,” Cervenka said. 

Cervenka said he appreciates the courage of the victims who came forward, noting those who are homeless are generally hesitant to speak to police. 

“We want them to know is that regardless of socioeconomic status, regardless of who you are or what you do, we are here to serve,” Cervenka said. 

Stephanie Barraza, with the Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus, works with sexual assault survivors and said it is never easy for victims to come forward with their stories. 

“Our role and our mission is really to believe and support anybody that comes through our doors,” Barraza said. 

Meanwhile, detectives believe there are more victims and encourage them to come forward. 

“Because we have victims now that are willing to go through this, they’ll prevent other women from being victims,” Cervenka said. 

Pineda-Pimentel is currently at the Tuolumne County Jail on suspicion of rape. His bail is set at $150,000.