Santa Cruz County

Taxi driver accused in 2004 Aptos rape appears in court

Bail raised for alleged rapist in Santa Cruz

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - The taxi driver now charged in connection with a sexual assault in Aptos from 2004 appeared in Santa Cruz County Superior Court Monday morning for arraignment on the new charges.

Salvador Ceja Rocha, 46, previously was arrested in May after prosecutors say he picked up a female passenger, took her to a secluded area and tried to sexually assault her. The woman was able to escape and call for help.

While in custody for that case, criminalists with the state Department of Justice used forensic evidence to link Rocha to a sexual assault that happened in Aptos in July 2004. In that case, a woman was walking home from a party in the early morning hours when she was knocked down by a man into an embankment, where he then sexually assaulted her.

Judge Timothy Volkmann on Monday appointed the public defender's officer on Rocha's new case -- which includes charges of felony rape, false imprisonment and sexual battery. Public defender Diana August asked that arraignment be postponed for a week to allow her office time to review the new charges. The public defender's office previously was assigned Rocha's earlier case, for which he faces charges of misdemeanor sexual battery.

Prosecutor Rafael Vasquez asked that Rocha's bail be raised to $450,000, which Volkmann agreed to.

The Sheriff's Office is looking into whether Rocha could be linked to other cases and are hoping to spread the word so that any other potential victims will come forward.

"At this point in time, we only have the two cases," Vasquez said.

He said he asked for the bail increase -- and will likely ask for a further increase -- because Rocha poses a flight risk. He intends to move to consolidate the two cases.

Rocha is due back in court on July 14. He remains in custody at the Santa Cruz County Jail.

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