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Man Accused of Raping, Beating UCSB Student Ordered to Stand Trial

Preliminary hearing testimony describes victim's injuries and how DNA was used to identify Daniel Jiang Chen as suspect

Defendant Daniel Jiang Chen, shown here during a March court hearing, will face felony rape charges, a judge determined after Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.
Defendant Daniel Jiang Chen, shown here during a March court hearing, will face felony rape charges, a judge determined after Tuesday’s preliminary hearing.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk file photo)

Daniel Jiang Chen will face trial on charges of forcible rape and allegations of torture and great bodily injury in a case involving the 2014 beating and sexual assault of a UC Santa Barbara student.

Superior Court Judge Pauline Maxwell determined there was enough evidence presented during Tuesday’s preliminary hearing to hold Chen to answer charges of forcible rape while acting in concert with others, and special allegations for torture and inflicting great bodily injury.

The victim, a 19-year-old woman at the time, was severely beaten and sexually assaulted on Feb. 23, 2014, and told authorities she was attacked by a group of Asian men she didn’t know.

Chen, a former UCSB student, was 21 at the time of his arrest in February.

He was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to the scene, authorities said.  

After a community-wide search, authorities discovered the crime scene on the UCSB campus, and found personal belongings of the victim in addition to used condoms.

During the preliminary hearing, Deputy District Attorney Benjamin Ladinig presented five witnesses who spoke about the victim’s recollections of the attack and DNA evidence gathered at the crime scene that allegedly links Chen to the assault. 

Defense attorneys Adam Pearlman and Sharon Appelbaum requested that the hearing be closed to media, arguing that the hearing could offset Chen’s chance for a fair trial if the case were to go forward.

Maxwell rejected that motion, but did not allow members of the media in the courtroom to take photographs or record the proceedings, although she has granted media requests for photographs in previous court hearings for this case.

She said there were “enough pictures out there” of the defendant.

The victim in this case, referred to as Jane Doe, told authorities that she had been in Isla Vista with friends before the assault, on the night of Feb. 22, 2014.

UCSB Police Department Officer Darren Miller was the first law enforcement officer called in this case, and responded around 4 a.m. Feb. 23 to the woman’s apartment in Isla Vista.

Her facial injuries were severe, he said, adding that “her eyes were nearly swollen shut.”

In an interview at the hospital, she told him she had been with friends and her memory lapsed during that night, because she wasn’t sure how she became separated from her friends or how she ended up in a field with the group of men who attacked her.

She said there were three or four Asian males who struck her in the face, and she remembered begging them to stop, and she would do whatever they wanted.

She remembered being on all fours and raped by one man and then another, one who was described as shorter who “seemed to be in charge,” Miller said.

She told authorities she was assaulted for more than an hour, and remembers running home after that, Miller said.

Other authorities testified that Jane Doe said it appeared to be one man sexually assaulting her, at which point the other men left the area. 

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Schmidt, who was a detective at the time, also interviewed Jane Doe, and described what happened when Search and Rescue teams found the crime scene, a dirt and grass area with overgrown trees and shrubs on the UCSB campus located between the tennis courts and the track, near Parking Lot 30.

Investigators found used condoms and condom wrappers, the copper bracelet the victim described losing, and the black and white underwear she had been wearing that night, he said.

UCSB Police Det. Dawn Arviso, who focuses on sexual assault and domestic violence cases, testified about her interviews with the victim and the victim’s roommate, who described the woman coming home, “hysterical, so to speak,” saying people wanted to hurt her, they wanted to kill her.

About two weeks later, when Arviso interviewed Jane Doe in person, the woman remembered leaving her apartment with friends, going to another apartment and then to a party on Del Playa, and having a few drinks.  

Arviso said survivors of very traumatic experiences often have trouble recalling events in chronological order and their recollections become more vivid over time.

When they revisited the crime scene together in April, the woman remembered details from the scene and the route she took back to her apartment, Arviso said.

Every law enforcement officer asked the victim about her drinking the night of the assault, it appears from preliminary hearing testimony, and the woman told Miller that she had felt “happy” but not overly intoxicated at the Del Playa residence party.

She did not appear intoxicated when he interviewed her at the hospital, within an hour of the 9-1-1 call, he said.

Registered nurse Cynthia Hecox testified about administering the sexual assault exam in this case, and the severity of Jane Doe’s facial injuries that made her unrecognizable.

“I was taken back and shocked by what I saw,” she said.

She could not even tell what color eyes Jane Doe had, Hecox said, adding that she briefly left the room to compose herself before doing the exam.

The woman’s right eardrum was ruptured and her right earring had been torn away, ripping the earlobe away from her face, Hecox said, her voice breaking while she testified on the stand.

Jane Doe’s eyes were so swollen and bruised Hecox that wrote “raccoon eyes” in her report.

Jane Doe had a broken nose, bruised knees and vaginal injuries.

“Her hands were like big mitts,” Hecox said, so swollen that a ring had to be cut off.

The last witness for the prosecution, Carla Levi with the Department of Justice Crime Lab in Santa Barbara, testified about the DNA evidence that linked Chen to this case.

Levi, a senior criminalist, was the DNA analyst for this case, and worked with the used condoms and underwear found at the crime scene, she testified.

She found sperm on one of the condoms, and a male DNA profile on the condoms and the pair of underwear.

There was also a female DNA profile, she said. 

Authorities initially referred to this case as a beating and gang rape, but Levi testified that the male DNA found from evidence at the scene was from the same person. 

Since the profile was unknown, it was uploaded to the CODIS, the FBI's Combined Index System DNA database, Levi testified.

This February, the lab got a hit for the DNA sample and it was Daniel Chen, she testified.

Authorities have said that Chen's DNA sample was in CODIS because of an unrelated felony arrest in Alameda County that occurred in January. 

Chen, who was due in Hayward court for an unrelated case, was arrested there on Feb. 10.

Arviso interviewed him at the time, and Chen said he didn't know the victim, though he had attended UCSB and lived in Isla Vista, she said. 

A new DNA sample taken from him was tested against the sperm and non-sperm male DNA profile from the condoms, Levi said.

It matched, she said, adding that the female DNA profile matched the sample given by Jane Doe.

Pearlman argued there wasn’t evidence of two separate assaults and said “there is very little evidence that the person who did the rape also did the physical assault,” but Maxwell ruled to hold Chen to all the charges.

Chen is charged with two counts of forcible rape while acting in concert with others, as well as special allegations for torture and inflicting great bodily injury during a sexual assault of the victim.

Chen will be arraigned on Nov. 2, and remains in the Santa Barbara County Jail without bail.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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