For nearly three decades Mirna Garcia worked to mentally and emotionally move past the night in 1991 when a masked man came through her bedroom window and kidnapped and raped her at gunpoint.
But in late April she received a letter from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation that brought those memories rushing back.
The man who raped her is up for parole.
Known as the “Tower rapist,” Rudolph M. Acosta, now 53, admitted to raping at least seven women and a teenage girl in Fresno’s Tower District in 1991.
He’s currently serving 78 years in Avenal State Prison — where Garcia hopes he stays.
“I was like ‘Oh my god, you’re kidding me. It’s that time already? Has it been that long?’” she said. “I was angry. I started crying. I was upset.”
Garcia, now 44, received the letter because shortly after the trial ended, she signed up with CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services to receive notifications when Acosta would be up for parole. She plans to attend his July 30 hearing and ask the parole board to keep him imprisoned.
She hopes other survivors will join her.
“That way if he does get out, everybody will know who he is so they can protect their loved ones,” she said.
Police at the time said Acosta stalked his victims and targeted single women or women who lived alone in the Tower District. Armed with a gun or a knife, Acosta also robbed or kidnapped some of the victims.
In Garcia’s case, she said Acosta stalked her for months, broke into her home through her bedroom window, kidnapped her at gunpoint and threatened to kill her family before sexually assaulting her. She was 16.
In a plea deal, Acosta was sentenced to 78 years in prison. During his sentencing hearing, he asked his victims for forgiveness and the court for help, according to The Bee archives. “I know I harmed a lot of people and I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Acosta said.
Steve Wright, a spokesman with the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, said the office has tried to get an explanation from CDCR as to why Acosta is up for parole. Prosecutors believed Acosta would serve his full 78-year term, and an attorney plans to oppose his early release at the parole hearing.
“Mr. Acosta committed some extremely serious offenses. When he was sentenced to the time in prison, we had told the victims and the community that he was going to be in prison for 78 years and they would not have to worry about him being out on the streets,” Wright said. “In a sense, the victims are being revictimized by learning he may walk out of prison as a free man. We haven’t seen any information that shows he has been rehabilitated or is no longer a threat to citizens of Fresno County.”
CDCR’s website notes that Acosta is eligible for parole as a “youth offender” because he committed his offense when he was 26 or younger.
Acosta discusses “my perverted mind”
A risk assessment completed in April by a forensic psychologist for the board of parole hearings delved deep into Acosta’s upbringing and time in prison.
Acosta in the assessment obtained by The Bee described working at a gas station as a teenager and looking through a “peephole” into the women’s restroom nearly every day for four years, which “he indicated was sexually arousing.”
As an adult, he said he and his friends would make bets on whether they could have sex with women and viewed women as sex objects. In his past relationships, Acosta said he had sex or expected sex about five times a day. When he didn’t have sex enough, he’d seek it elsewhere, the report says.
Acosta said his crimes were not planned and were random, and “my perverted mind was pushing me to engage.” After the first sexual assault, “My heart began to race and I thought why did I do this, I felt really bad. I’m getting away with the first one, the urge was there to do it again,” according to the report.
Acosta said he wanted to get caught and stop committing the crimes and said he asked God for help.
“I felt power, control, satisfied, only what a pervert would feel. Holding the gun, knife, to get my own disgusting satisfaction,” he told the psychologist. “Afterward I would feel bad for the victim and felt disgusted with myself.”
He indicated he was remorseful due to “all the emotional pain that I inflicted on them, taking their livelihood away from them, marriages, family life ... I feel embarrassed or shame. The scar I left on them. I know I left it on them for life, it will always be there. I get so emotional because they were innocent,” he said in the report.
A few years into his prison term, Acosta reported poor sleep and bad dreams where he would “hear voices similar to those which he heard when he was committing his crime,” the assessment report said.
Acosta has stayed out of trouble in prison and completed many classes and participated in almost a dozen therapy programs.
If granted parole, Acosta plans to live with a relative in Fresno about 10 miles away from the Tower District. However, he fears for his safety and the community’s perception of him. “He may face challenges dealing with backlash from the community since his case was high profile and information of his release would be met with resistance. This added stress could be a factor in his ability to cope with living in the community,” the report said.
The assessment concluded that Acosta presents a moderate risk for violence if granted parole and said he “appeared to have minimal insight into his triggers relating to his sexually deviant behavior.”
‘One more person is one too many’
Garcia doesn’t know how many other survivors were notified of the parole hearing, but she hopes they get word before the July 1 deadline to get clearance to attend or submit a letter to the board.
Wright said other victims were notified of the parole hearing and plan to submit written statements to oppose Acosta’s early release.
Garcia plans to attend Acosta’s July 30 parole hearing at Avenal State Prison, and she believes if other victims join her the chances are better Acosta won’t be granted parole.
“If they’re afraid and feel like they’re alone, they’re not. I don’t want them to feel ashamed either, like I felt — ashamed, embarrassed, guilty — for years. We shouldn’t feel that way. We didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I know the right thing to do is to be there and do everything I can to make sure he doesn’t get out and hurt someone else. Just one more person is one too many.”
A small percentage of victims attend parole hearings, said Christine Ward, executive director of the iCan Foundation, a nonprofit that supports and advocates for victims of crime.
“It’s important that victims are there because that is another opportunity to share their thoughts in an environment where the inmate will hear them and how it affected them or changed their lives, not necessarily for the better,” Ward said.
Victims who would like to request notice and an opportunity to attend an inmate’s parole hearing can contact CDCR’s Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services through the website or by calling toll-free at 1-877-256-6877.