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Errors in ‘Ski Mask’ Rape Case Spark Command Changes

December 24, 1987

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ The police chief has demoted a top deputy for his role in the ″ski mask rapist″ case and called for an investigation into his department’s probe of the assaults on at least 31 women.

Joseph McNamara’s action followed reports that an 83-year-old woman was raped in a Saratoga church during the Thanksgiving weekend, when detectives had suspended surveillance of the man eventually arrested in the case.

George Anthony Sanchez, charged last week with 101 felony counts in 25 of the attacks, is being held in Santa Clara County Jail. Police say more charges may be filed in connection with other attacks.

McNamara, saying he was acting in part to repair damage to the department’s credibility, ordered Deputy Chief Ike Hernandez, a 30-year veteran who led the rape probe, transferred from his post as chief of investigations to that as head of administration.

Deputy Chief Tom Frazier will replace Hernandez and head the investigation into handling of the case.

The transfer of Hernandez, 55, the force’s highest-ranking minority group member, was criticized by Hispanic community leaders as premature and unnecessary.

But McNamara said, ″People will be held accountable for their actions in this department, and that means everyone, including Hispanics.″

Hernandez did not return phone calls left at the police department.

McNamara said he was concerned about possible delays in following up a major lead received seven months before Sanchez’s arrest.

Hernandez misled reporters first by saying that an important lead in the case - reported by a Foster City woman who had been a victim of an attempted burglary by a masked and armed Sanchez in 1985 - had been received in August instead of May, McNamara said.

Police have said they suspended the surveillance temporarily over Thanksgiving weekend because of a manpower shortage that weekend and restrictions on overtime.

Police first became aware of the Thanksgiving attack after evidence was recovered during a search of the suspect’s home, McNamara said. He said he did not learn of the attack until he read about it in a newspaper on Sunday.

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