Weeks after former NFL player Kellen Winslow II was arrested and accused of rape and other crimes, none of the three women who testified in a Vista courtroom Wednesday could identify him as the stranger they had encountered.
One said she never got a good look at the man who exposed himself in her garden. Another said the man she found in her laundry room was not in the courtroom. And a third woman misidentified one of Winslow II’s defense attorneys as the person who assaulted her.
The failure of three accusers to pick out Winslow II — namesake son of the Chargers legend — came on the first day of his preliminary hearing. It is a mini-trial of sorts, at the end of which a judge decides if a defendant must face trial.
Testimony in the preliminary hearing will continue Thursday; the second of two alleged rape victims is expected to take the stand.
Winslow II was arrested in June. He is accused of raping two women, exposing himself to a third, and entering the homes of two additional women, who the prosecution alleges that he was there to rape.
The 34-year-old has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include eight felonies and one misdemeanor.
Winslow II remains jailed without bail, and faces life in prison if convicted of all charges.
One of the witnesses to take the stand Wednesday was a 54-year-old hitchhiker who said a man stopped to pick her up on Santa Fe Drive, east of Interstate 5.
At first, the conversation between was pleasant, just small talk as they headed toward Coast Highway
Then it wasn’t.
“He goes ‘I’m going to (expletive) you or I’m going to kill you,” the woman said.
She said the man drove into a grocery store shopping center just west of the freeway and headed around back.
She said fear led her to met his demand of oral sex, and to follow him out of the car and climb over a fence near the freeway. There, she said, the assailant undressed but changed his mind.
They went back to the car, she said, where the stranger crawled on top of her and raped her. Afterward, he drove off, leaving her behind.
She reported the incident to deputies four days later.
She acknowledged telling authorities that the vehicle was a boxy black two-door Jeep. Winslow II drove a black Hummer H2.
Asked to identify her assailant, she looked around the courtroom, then identified one of Winslow’s attorneys.
Both Winslow II and the attorney are African-American, both are tall and fit-looking, and both were wearing suits and seated next to each other. In court, Winslow II wore a suit and glasses and scribbled on a notepad.
Also taking the stand was a 71-year-old woman who said she was at her mobile home when she suddenly saw a strange man in her laundry room, near an open back door. He said he was looking for a particular unit number — the same number as her unit. She assumed it had been an honest mistake, that he was in the wrong mobile home park.
She testified that she “never got any feeling of fear, or that he was there to harm me in any way.”
She came forward after seeing news of his arrest last month. In court, she, too, failed to identify Winslow II as the man she encountered.
There was also testimony from a third woman who said she had been gardening when a stranger approached on a bike. Testifying through a Vietnamese interpreter, she said she did not look him in the face when he tried to talk to her, and that at some point, she turned around and saw that he was exposing himself.
She said the stranger had tattoos up and down his arms. WInslow II also a sleeve of tattoos on both arms.
But she described a man shorter than Winslow II, and was unable to pick the stranger out of a photo line-up or in the courtroom Wednesday.
The original complaint outlining the charges against Winslow II points to five alleged offenses since March.
Among the charges in the initial complaint:
- Kidnap, rape and forced oral copulation of a 54-year-old woman in March;
- Kidnap, rape and sodomy of a 59-year-old woman in May;
- Indecent exposure in May (the victim was a 58-year-old woman);
- Burglary with the intent to rape a 71-year-old woman in June; and
- Burglary with the intent to rape an 86-year-old woman in June.
This story was originally published at 5:05 p.m.