General Crime

Watsonville police have arrested a man they believe is “The Groper” Jose Navarro

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Watsonville police have arrested a man they believe is “The Groper,” who has grabbed more than 20 young women and girls over the past three years. Jose Navarro, 28, of Watsonville, was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault on Wednesday. He was taken into custody at his workplace in the city of Marina in Monterey County, thanks to information provided by the public after police released a video of a groping outside the La Princesa Market in Watsonville on Oct. 20, police said.

After officers arrested Navarro on sexual assault charges Wednesday, they found evidence in his Watsonville home related to several other alleged sexual assaults in which the victims were unable to pick out a suspect from a photographic lineup, police said. Watsonville investigators had worked through hundreds of leads to find the suspect, nicknamed “The Groper,” starting in 2010, police said.

The assailant would approach female victims and grab their buttocks or crotches. Officers released a police sketch of the suspect, hired a crime analyst to predict where the next strike might occur and sent female undercover officers to serve as decoys in areas of Watsonville where some of the gropings had occurred, but without result, police said. “The closure of this three-year-long investigation was made possible by the willingness of our community to step forward and provide us with information,” police said in a news release.

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