Man Who Tried to Burn MoVal Store Clerk During Theft Sentenced

City News Service Pristine Villarreal

RIVERSIDE (CNS) – A transient who attempted to set a Moreno Valley store clerk on fire when the worker prevented the defendant from fleeing with stolen groceries was bound for state prison Thursday to serve a roughly two-year sentence.

Raul Genaro Bautista, 31, reached a plea agreement with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office Wednesday, admitting charges of assault with a deadly weapon and attempted robbery. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors dropped charges of attempted murder and attempted arson.

Superior Court Judge Brian Aronson certified the plea deal and imposed the sentence stipulated by the prosecution and defense — three years in state prison. However, after the judge factored in the time Bautista has already served in county jail awaiting disposition of his case, as well as state-mandated credits, it effectively reduced the sentence to 21 months.

Bautista was arrested last August after the attack in the 24500 block of Alessandro Boulevard, near Indian Street.

According to sheriff’s Sgt. Marcos Acosta, about 11:40 a.m. on Aug. 18, Bautista grabbed multiple items from the shelves of the supermarket, piling them into a shopping cart, then headed for the exit without paying.

A clerk witnessed the theft and confronted the defendant on his way out, Acosta said.

“The suspect doused the employee with lighter fluid, retrieved a lighter and attempted to set the victim on fire,” the sergeant said.

The attempt was unsuccessful, and the clerk wasn’t injured.

Acosta said the defendant abandoned the cart and fled into a residential area. Patrol deputies reached the location within a few minutes, deploying a K-9 team to scour the neighborhood.

The bloodhound picked up Bautista’s trail a few hours later, guiding deputies to a space on Alessandro, where he was taken into custody without incident, according to the sergeant.

Court records show that the defendant had several prior misdemeanor convictions for domestic violence.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.

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