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Santa Rosa man found guilty of 2019 Howarth Park rape, kidnapping

A jury deliberated just 15 minutes Tuesday before finding a Santa Rosa man guilty in the forcible rape and aggravated kidnapping of a woman in 2019.

Rusiate Waqa, 25, of Santa Rosa, faces a mandatory prison term of 25 years to life and will be sentenced on Sept. 9, according to a news release issued by Deputy District Attorney Brian Staebell.

The enhanced charges and subsequent trial and guilty verdict resulted from an incident in which Waqa surprised the victim, referred to as Jane Doe to protect her identity, in the woman’s restroom at Howarth Park early on the morning of Aug. 16, 2019.

He grabbed her arm and threatened to kill her, overpowered her, then dragged her into a bathroom stall and sexually assaulted her. He then fled into the neighborhood, according to the news release.

Waqa was apprehended after another woman reported that he was acting suspiciously in the park and reported his license plate number to authorities. Jane Doe was able to positively identify her assailant and DNA was used to link Waqa to the crime, Staebell said.

The case was prosecuted in court by Deputy District Attorney Laura Passaglia, assisted by District Attorney’s office investigator Robyn Fuentes and Victim Witness Advocate Alex Perry.

Santa Rosa Police Detective James Page headed the investigation.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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