One woman kept putting her head down and taking deep breaths. The other continually broke into tears.
Both recounted in El Dorado County Superior Court Monday sexual assaults at gunpoint they each endured in 1999.
The witnesses, a 37-year-old woman now pregnant, married and living in Kentucky, and a 52-year-old woman who works at a business inside a Stateline casino, both identified Edwin Carlevato as their attacker.
Carlevato, a 47-year-old former poker dealer at a casino in Jackson, Calif., is charged with 11 felony counts stemming from the kidnap and sexual assault of two women and the attempted kidnap of another.
If convicted on all charges, Carlevato could receive several life terms in prison.
The 37-year-old said she was kidnapped from the corner of Park Avenue and U. S. Highway 50 in the early morning hours of July 10, 1999.
Driven to an old horse corral on State Route 89, the woman said she was forced to orally copulate a man, then left naked on the side of the road with her clothes thrown at her feet.
Before the assault, the woman said her attacker drove to the 7-Eleven near the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Highway 50. She testified that she sat in the car, too scared to get out and run away, while the man went in and bought cigarettes.
“I was scared to death, I didn’t know what to do so I got in the car,” she said. “When he pulled up to 7-Eleven I had plenty of chances to get out but I was scared … he said if you tell anyone I’ll track you down and kill you, and to me those are terrifying words.”
Four days after her assault, she called a detective and told him about their visit to the convenience store. Investigators collected the store’s surveillance video and released images of the man to the media in late October after a second sexual assault occurred near State Route 89 and the border of Alpine and El Dorado Counties.
Calls from members of the public identified the man in the video as Carlevato. He was arrested at Jackson Rancheria Casino Nov. 4, 1999.
During the trial Monday, Carlevato was stoic. Wearing a tie, blue suit and shirt, he diligently took notes with what looked like a fountain pen. Often he sat way back in his chair, with his right hand resting on the mustache of his goatee.
During the defense’s cross-examination of the 37-year-old, lawyers established the woman, once jailed for prostitution in Nevada, has a learning disability and she used cocaine and crank on a regular basis in 1999.
“Would it be fair to say that you get confused more often than other people?” asked Deputy District Attorney Peter O’Hara.
“Yes, I have a learning disability.”
Court-appointed defense attorney Donald Heape also established she had a newspaper photo of Carlevato on her person before she identified Carlevato in a police lineup.
“I thought it would help me … recognize the person,” she said. “It was the suspect’s picture that I recognized. I didn’t read the articles. I have a hard time remembering faces unless I see the person directly in my face.”
The woman testified that she was prescribed eyeglasses as a child, but was not wearing any corrective lenses in court Monday. She said she had recently been diagnosed with a cataract.
O’Hara called his second witness of the day around 2:30 p.m. The 52-year-old testified Carlevato kidnapped her at gunpoint the night of Oct. 30, 1999 on Aspen Avenue while she was walking home after gambling at Bill’s Lake Tahoe Casino.
The woman told O’Hara she stopped driving at South Shore because two of her cars had been stolen. “As I approached the car I noticed someone was sitting inside of it,” she said. “All of the sudden the door opens and a man is holding a gun at me saying ‘Turn around, turn around. Just do what I say and I won’t hurt you.’ “
The man reclined her seat all the way, so she wouldn’t look at him, and drove out to Blue Lakes Road. The woman said on the way her attacker told her she had five minutes to get undressed. She testified that at one point he ran a sharp knife across her bare legs.
Somewhere on Blue Lakes Road, in the back of the small station wagon, the man raped the woman.
She feared for her life throughout the ordeal.
“I asked him to hold me for a minute and he did,” she said. “I thought if he could feel my heart beating then he wouldn’t kill me.”
He dropped her, fully clothed, at the intersection of State Route 89 and Blue Lakes Road. A passing motorist picked her up a few minutes later. They drove to a resort nearby and called deputies to the scene.
Cross-examination of the 52-year-old woman is expected to continue today. Carlevato’s trial resumed Monday for the first time since Dec. 20. The jury got almost a three-week break for the holidays.
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