LANCASTER — A paroled killer accused of kidnapping, hogtying and sexually assaulting a prostitute at a home owned by a local church was ordered Friday to stand trial on multiple felony charges.
Superior Court Judge Kathleen Blanchard found sufficient evidence to require Leonard Bales to proceed to trial on charges of kidnapping to commit forcible oral copulation, forcible oral copulation, attempted murder, criminal threats, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment by violence and assault with intent to commit rape, sodomy or oral copulation.
The ruling came after a preliminary court hearing Friday that included testimony from Bales’ 35-year-old victim. The woman wept throughout her testimony as she recounted graphic details of her encounter with Bales.
The victim said she was working as a prostitute during the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2015, near Avenue J-5 and Division Street in Lancaster, when Bales pulled up in a vehicle and requested oral sex in exchange for payment. The two went to a bank for Bales to withdraw money, the victim said, and then Bales drove her back to Avenue J-5 to finish the transaction.
After the sexual encounter, things took a violent turn, according to the victim’s testimony.
“Before I could get out the car, he wrapped a belt around my neck and choked me,” she said through tears.
The victim said Bales drove off, with one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand twisting the belt around her neck. He warned her not to scream or he would kill her, the victim testified.
She said she “blacked out” during the drive and “when I opened my eyes all I could see was him with a belt around my neck.”
At some point, Bales put a shirt over her head, the victim said, and some time after that, the car stopped and Bales dragged her outside.
“He was pulling me like I was a dog,” the victim said.
She said Bales forced her inside a house, removed her clothes and tied her up with belts.
“He hogtied me,” the victim said, explaining that her hands were tied behind her back with a belt, and her feet were tied using a belt and her own leggings.
“He forced me to give him a [sex act] while he had me hogtied…” the victim testified. “If I didn’t proceed… he said he was gonna kill me.”
After that encounter, Bales dragged her into a bathroom, told her he was leaving for three hours, and warned her that he would be monitoring her, the victim testified.
The victim said she managed to free her legs while Bales was gone, and she ran out of the house naked to seek help.
She said she ran to two nearby homes but received no answer, then she ran to a third house and a man let her in.
That man, Quartz Hill resident Richard Murino, testified at the preliminary hearing Friday.
Murino said he was at home during the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 2015, when he heard a loud pounding on his window and door.
He said he opened the door to a naked woman who was tied at the wrists with what appeared to be men’s belts.
“She screamed, ‘This man is trying to kill me and he’s gonna kill you too,’” Murino testified.
He said he let the woman in based on “the look on her face.”
“I called 911, I armed myself and I gave her a robe,” Murino said.
Bales’ preliminary hearing also included testimony from registered sex offender Greg Yost, who said the home where the alleged attack occurred belonged to the Quartz Hill Community Church.
Yost testified that he worked at the Quartz Hill Community Church “doing cleanup” and he was also working to help repair a vacant church-owned home on the 6200 block of Almond Valley Way, which was to house the pastor.
Yost said he had solicited Bales to work on the home’s air conditioner after meeting Bales through a prison fellowship program.
Yost was previously convicted of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14, according to the Megan’s Law website. And Bales was paroled in 2013 after he was convicted of killing a woman in Lancaster.
Yost testified that he gave Bales the keys to both the Quartz Hill Community Church and the church-owned home to make repairs. He said he contacted Bales days later to check on the status of the repairs, and Bales confessed that he had made a mistake and cheated on his wife with a prostitute. Bales did not say that the prostitute was injured, Yost testified.
“I called him back and asked him where did he do this, he told me the pastor’s house,” Yost testified.
Following the preliminary hearing Friday, Bales was held to answer on all counts and special allegations, according to Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami.
The case includes allegations of kidnap, tying, binding, great bodily injury and two or more serious or violent felony convictions — 1994 convictions for assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury and first-degree burglary, and a 1998 conviction for voluntary manslaughter.
If convicted as charged, Bales faces a possible maximum sentence of life in state prison. He is due back in a Lancaster courtroom Feb. 24 for a second arraignment.
Bales remaines jailed on $3,805,000 bail.
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