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A San Francisco man suspected of abducting and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old at-risk girl who walked away from an Oakland group home in November has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and rape charges. Gary Steven Atkinson, 36, entered his not-guilty plea in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Tuesday. He is scheduled to return to court on Jan. 29 for a pretrial hearing. Atkinson is charged with kidnapping, three counts of rape of an incompetent person, three counts of lewd acts upon a child, and one count of an attempted lewd act upon a child. The victim is an autistic girl who walked away from the Fred Finch Youth Center at 3800 Coolidge Ave. on the night of Nov. 27. She was followed by center staff members until they lost sight of her near the corner of 34th Avenue and International Boulevard, near the Fruitvale BART station. The staff then alerted police that she was missing. Police said the girl has the mental capacity of a 9- to 12-year-old.
According to a probable cause statement filed in court by Oakland police Officer Alonzo Weatherly, the girl was kidnapped near the BART station and taken to a home in San Francisco, where she was held and raped multiple times over a three-day period before she managed to escape. A San Francisco Municipal Railway train operator found her two nights later, “disoriented and very scared,” Oakland police Lt. LeRonne Armstrong said. But the girl was also “resilient” and managed to assist investigators in finding her alleged attacker, Armstrong said. Police distributed a photo of Atkinson obtained from surveillance cameras at the Fruitvale BART station, and arrested him at about 9 p.m. on Dec. 2 near 34th Avenue and International Boulevard, in the area where the alleged kidnapping occurred. Atkinson has several previous felony convictions, including for burglary, robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.
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