On the afternoon of January 19, 2004, a scantily clad barefoot woman with duct tape hanging from her wrists and ankles pounded on the door of a house in the 13900 block of Sherman Way in Van Nuys, California, frantically screaming, "He's going to kill me, he's going to kill me!" According to police who responded to the homeowner's 911 call, the hysterical woman said she was kidnapped by a white man in the Rampart area of Los Angeles, forced to help him load a dead body into an SUV, driven to an apartment in Van Nuys, and forced to commit oral sodomy on him. Left alone when her attacker went to buy beer, she escaped her bonds and fled the scene. Police located the plastic-wrapped corpse of Edith I. Mejia, a 42-year-old mother of ten, in a Ford Explorer parked in the carport of a Van Nuys apartment building in the 7100 block of Costello Avenue. The parking space was registered to Paul Alan Ott, a 35-year-old Hollywood grip on films including The Breaks (1999), Michael Jordan: An American Hero (1999 -- made-for-television movie), The Puzzle in the Air (1999), Brother (2000), and Sueno (2003). Ott matched the victim's physical description of her attacker (bald, 5'9", 170 pounds, heavily tattooed, white) and police sought him for questioning. The man with a devil's head and the word "Otter" inked on his upper body remained at-large until the early morning hours of January 22, 2004 when detectives assisted by the FBI arrested the unarmed film grip after he jumped from the second-floor window of an apartment building at 7130 Hollywood Boulevard. Ott was charged with the knife murder of Mejia, the rape of the escaped woman, as well as the sexual assault of another woman on January 15, 2004, who stepped forward after seeing the laborer's photo on television.
At trial in May 2004, Ott insisted he acted in self-defense when Mejia, a casual friend, lunged at him with a knife. Jurors discounted the idea in favor of the prosecution's characterization of Ott as a murderer acting under a week long "drug-induced rampage." On May 11, 2006, the 38-year-old grip was found guilty of second-degree murder in Mejia's death and of the sexual assault of his escaped captive. The earlier sexual assault case was dropped before trial. He was sentenced to a combined prison term of 61 years to life (31 years for murder, 30 years for forcible oral copulation). "It was one of the sickest cases I have known," Deputy District Attorney Shellie Samuels, prosecutor in the Robert Blake murder trial said. "It's a sad case for everyone involved because [Ott] has two little girls, but I'm happy with the sentence." In July 2007, a state appellate court upheld Ott's conviction. As of March 2014, Inmate #F35486 was incarcerated at Kern Valley State Prison in Delano, California.