Rape suspect, a high school junior, faces tough decision at April 17 arraignment

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

March 29, 2006

An accused teenage rapist will either enter a guilty or not guilty plea at 11 a.m. Monday, April 17.

Ruperto Gonzaga-Gama, 18, will make an appearance in Hood River Circuit Court on that date to either deny or admit to the 10 charges against him. He is being held in NORCOR on a $100,000 cash bail.

The Hood River Valley High School junior was arrested Feb. 14 in connection with the sexual assault of a Collins Road woman.

He has been charged with five counts of felony rape, two counts of first-degree burglary, two counts of first-degree robbery and auto theft.

On March 13, Gonzaga-Gama waived his legal right to have a trial within 60 days of his arrest. Once that issue was settled, both the defense and prosecution spent several minutes consulting their respective calendars for a free date to hold the next court hearing.

District Attorney John Sewell asked that the date be firmly nailed down so that the victim had adequate time to prepare.

“I would like to be able to speak with her and advise her of certainty in a court date,” he told Judge Donald Hull.

Brian Starns, the court-appointed lawyer representing Gonzaga-Gama, agreed with that request.

“I understand the state’s concern and if there needs to be a change we’ll give everyone advance notice,” he said.

Gonzaga-Gama was found sitting inside the victim’s stolen SUV just minutes after she reported being raped at knifepoint and then tied up. Fifteen minutes after that 9-1-1 call was made, Sheriff Joe Wampler, flying a search plane, spotted the vehicle parked behind a farm shed along Imai Road.

According to reports, Gonzaga-Gama, a Mexican national who also resided on Collins Road, later confessed to the attack.

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