A man convicted in 1994 for a series of kidnappings and attempted sexual assaults in Oakdale from 1993 was denied parole on Aug. 18 after a hearing of the State Board of Parole held at Susanville State Prison. Steven Eugene Rice, of Oakdale, was arrested in 1993 for a number of felonies and has been in custody since then.
Oakdale Leader archives from the fall of 1993 show that the Oakdale Police Department was busy investigating a series of crimes that Rice was tied to and later arrested.
On Sept. 5, 1993, a woman was kidnapped outside Taco Bell and forced into her car. The suspect fled with the woman who later escaped by jumping out of the moving vehicle.
Later that same month, on Sept. 27, a carjacking occurred at the Oakdale Post Office where a man shoved a woman into her 1980 VW and threatened her with a meat cleaver. She also jumped from the car as it was driving.
Two weeks later, on Oct 11, another woman was attacked at an Oakdale laundromat. The suspect forced that victim into a bathroom and threatened her with a knife. The victim fought back and was able to forcibly eject the man from the business and lock the door.
Police investigated the incidents concluding that sexual assault was the motive, plastering the city with composite drawings of the suspect.
On Oct. 12, Rice was caught trying to steal a bicycle from Fair Oaks Elementary School.
The arresting officer, Steve Jacobson, linked Rice, then 22, to the composite drawings and Rice was questioned by detectives.
During questioning, detectives showed the female victims a photo lineup and Rice was positively identified in all three incidents resulting in his arrest.
Follow-up investigation showed that Rice had a criminal record in Missouri for sexual assault and convictions in Oklahoma.
The matter went to trial and on March 29, 1994 a Stanislaus County Superior Court jury convicted Rice of multiple felony crimes including aggravated kidnapping for the purpose of rape and robbery, kidnapping, robbery, assault with intent to commit rape, sexual battery, false imprisonment, burglary and several enhancements for using a weapon. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in state prison plus nine additional years.
Due to recent changes in California law that now allow early releases on parole, despite life sentences, if a prison inmate is designated a “youthful offender” who committed his life crimes prior to the age of 23, Rice was allowed his first parole hearing.
Stanislaus County Deputy District Attorney Blythe Harris appeared at the hearing and argued for Rice’s continued confinement based on the outrageousness of his criminal acts against three women, his prison disciplinary record, and his previous criminal history which included a Missouri sexual assault conviction when he was 19 years old.
The Parole Board agreed and denied parole for five years. However, as a newly designated “youthful offender,” Rice may petition the Board to advance his next hearing to an earlier date after only one year.