Trial Underway in 2017 Sexual Assault, Attempted Murder Case
Prosecutors and defense attorneys presented starkly contrasting portraits of what happened on Nov. 24, 2017, in their opening arguments in the trial of Juan Jose Figueroa Jr.
Figueroa, 29, is charged with six counts of sexual assault, as well as attempted second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault.
It took about a day and a half for prosecutors and defense attorneys to sort through prospective jurors, and a jury was empaneled on Tuesday afternoon for the trial that is expected to last until March 22.
Boulder Deputy District Attorney Lys Runnerstrom described Figueroa as a predator who watched the alleged victim and lured her away from a house party to his house where he strangled and raped her for an hour.
“She began Thanksgiving 2017 a bubbly gregarious 24-year-old woman,” Runnerstrom said. “She ended that day at the epitome of terror — Sexually assaulted, strangled within seconds of her life. It was a transformation that was the handiwork of this man, the defendant Juan Figueroa.”
Runnerstrom said that the prosecution plans on calling an expert witness to testify it isn’t out of the ordinary for someone who has suffered severe trauma to not remember every detail in the correct order but in “snapshots.”
“Her memory of what the defendant did to her ... while she was up in his bedroom is a collection of those snapshots shot burned into her mind’s eye,” she said.
Defense attorney Sam Dunn countered that the alleged victim gave statements to police and others that don’t match the evidence. That, he said, includes surveillance video from inside Figueroa’s home that shows her head upstairs willingly and contradicts her statement that she was dragged up the stairs by her hair. Video surveillance at the party also appears to show the two interacting before they leave together.
“She claims she was dragged up the stairs. That didn’t happen. She claims she was kicking and screaming while this was happening. This didn’t happen,” Dunn said.
He added that DNA evidence collected during a sexual assault nurse examination will point to any encounter between the two as being consensual, and testimony regarding strangulation will not back up her claims. He also warned the jury to listen carefully to expert witnesses expected to be called and to pay attention to the way they answer questions depending on who asks them.
Prosecutors allege Figueroa met the woman on Nov. 24, 2017 at the Speakeasy Bar, 301 Main St. in Longmont. The woman later went to a party, which she left in the company of Figueroa and went a house on the 1000 block of Ponderosa Circle, where Figueroa was renting a room.
The woman sent text messages to a friend to come pick her up, but prosecutors allege Figueroa told her a phony address. The friend drove to the area and waited for her for nearly an hour.
At least two other adults were in the home at the time of the alleged attack, and one of them gave the woman a ride close to her parents home. Once she made it home, the woman reported the alleged assault.
Longmont police also have identified Figueroa as the suspect in the case of Rita Gutierrez-Garcia, a Longmont woman who vanished in March 2018 and is now presumed dead. Figueroa has not been charged in the case. Gutierrez-Garcia went to the Speakeasy bar on St. Patrick’s Day before she went missing.
Figueroa on Tuesday remained in custody at the Boulder County Jail.
John Bear: 303-473-1355, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/johnbearwithme