Caught and cuffed; Dogs, choppers help nab suspect |

Caught and cuffed; Dogs, choppers help nab suspect

A Grass Valley man has been arrested after law enforcement used helicopters and canine units to search neighborhoods surrounding Memorial Park for a man suspected of breaking into a Union Hill home and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl.

“We have a suspect in custody. He was hiding in a house,” said Capt. Ron Smith, of the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Jonathan Rodriguez, 29, was found hiding in a room of a house he had access to on Cherry Street, off Race Street in Grass Valley, Smith said.

The alleged crimes occurred at about 11:42 a.m. Wednesday on the 11000 block of Lower Pine Hill Drive, near Empire Mine State Park east of Grass Valley, according to the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office.

Rodriguez was booked into Wayne Brown Correctional Facility on suspicion of sexual assault, kidnapping and home invasion, Smith said.

The girl was baby-sitting at a private home when the man entered the house and took her to a back room and closed the door. One of the children who was under the girl’s care went to a neighbor’s house to get help, Smith said.

“The father called from Auburn, and we went out and checked the residence,” a sheriff’s dispatcher said.

When deputies arrived at the scene, they discovered a sexual assault in progress, according to the sheriff’s office.

“He ran when we got there,” Smith added.

Officers chased Rodriguez on foot until he reached a vehicle hidden in a different location, Smith said.

“He had an escape plan all figured out,” Smith said.

“A district attorney investigator was in the neighborhood listening to radio traffic,” the sheriff’s statement said. “He fell in behind the suspect’s vehicle and began broadcasting the suspect’s location.”

After his get-away, Rodriguez ditched his car in the parking lot at Memorial Park and fled again on foot into the nearby neighborhoods. Investigators conducted a house-to-house search, the sheriff’s office said.

A helicopter flew loudly over Terri Gallagher’s house on Pine Hill Drive.

“The neighbors are all in an uproar,” Gallagher said.

A dispatcher on the sheriff’s nonemergency line said to “keep your doors locked and to keep your kids inside,” Gallagher added. “And I live in a nice neighborhood. I thought, ‘What’s going on?'”

Nevada County Search and Rescue, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, California State Parks, Grass Valley Police Department and California Highway Patrol quickly set up a loose perimeter around Grass Valley.

While Highway Patrol helicopters circled overhead, officers and park rangers scoured city streets on foot with trained dogs for about an hour until the man was located.

“It was really a fantastic effort. It went up fast,” Smith said.

Detectives from the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office, the California Department of Justice and forensic experts are continuing the investigation, the sheriff’s office said.

City Editor Trina Kleist contributed to this report. To contact Staff Writer Laura Brown, e-mail or call 477-4231.

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