Sharwian Bobian—who went missing for more than a month after the Santa Clara County District Attorney declined to file rape charges against him—was arrested Friday morning after a days-long manhunt.
The 43-year-old mentally ill homeless man was last seen Jan. 4 at his makeshift shelter in San Martin, just a half-mile from the victim’s home and just two days after the Sheriff’s Office had to release him because the DA deemed the case too difficult to prosecute.
The victim, whose name is being withheld being withheld to protect her privacy, started crying when she found out about the suspect’s capture. “Oh my God,” she said, pausing to catch her breath between sobs. “Oh my God, what a relief.”
Her husband, hearing the news for the first time, said he’s glad the suspect is off the streets. “I can’t believe it,” he said in a phone call minutes after the arrest. “I was just saying this morning, every time my phone rings I’m just waiting to get this call.”
The Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over the case because the alleged crime took place in unincorporated South County, began canvassing local homeless encampments on Monday as soon as the DA filed a rape charge.
A San Jose policeman spotted Bobian at Highway 101 and Yerba Buena Road. Recognizing his face from news reports, the cop asked for his name, ran a background check to confirm the outstanding warrant and made the arrest shortly before 10am today.
“It was good old-fashioned proactive police work,” SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia said of the officer who made the arrest. “He made us all proud today.”
Bobian was escorted out of the Sheriff’s Office headquarters on West Younger Avenue shortly before noon. Wearing a tan shirt, matching pants and shackles on his wrists, he averted his eyes down. Officers clad in bulletproof vests guided him from the main entrance to a patrol car waiting at the curb as reporters looked on.
Sheriff Laurie Smith held a small press conference after the suspect left in which she applauded her officers and SJPD for re-arresting Bobian. She also said she believes the charges should have been filed a lot sooner because the case was thoroughly investigated when she first referred it to the DA in early January.
Through a spokesman, DA Jeff Rosen announced that Bobian will be arraigned at 1:30pm Wednesday. If convicted, he faces up to eight years in prison.
“We would like to thank the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office for their thorough investigation,” the DA said in a prepared statement, “and the San Jose Police Department for making today’s arrest.”
Authorities—the DA’s office in particular—hoped to keep the search this week a secret and tried to discourage San Jose Inside from publicizing anything about it. But the victim and her husband said they wanted the public to know.
“I think the media push really helped despite the DA’s office telling us to squelch it,” the husband said this morning.
The first order of business was to draw Bobian’s blood, which happened at the Sheriff’s Office HQ within a couple hours of the arrest.
Because a Valley Medical Center phlebotomist failed to collect a sufficient blood sample when they had him in custody Jan. 3, they couldn’t test him for HIV status. And because the disease takes time to manifest upon transmission, the victim had no way of knowing if she contracted the incurable immunodeficiency virus.
The only thing she could do, doctors told her, was to refrain from all physical intimacy for at least six months—just to be safe. “So now what we need is that guy’s blood,” the husband said. “If that gets cleared up, that’s a huge part of it right there that will give us the relief we really need right now.”
News of the arrest lifted a huge weight off his shoulders, the victim’s husband said.
“The fact that they got him and have charges against him is such a relief,” he added. “At least, we’re headed in the right direction of getting her some justice.”
Smith said the ordeal this week has inspired her to create an office of victim services within the Sheriff’s Office. The DA has its own such unit, but the sheriff told reporters she’ll ask the county to fund a counterpart under her purview.
She closed her presser today with a message for people like the woman in San Martin who reported the rape: “Victims of sexual assault, we will walk with you.”
Morgan Hill Times editor Michael Moore also contributed to this report.