17+ years in prison for man who sexually assaulted three Mesa women
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A man who confessed and pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting three women in Mesa has been sentenced to 17-and-a-half years in prison.
23-year-old Gilbert Lerma will also be on lifetime supervised probation, and must also register as a sex offender.
Lerma was arrested in August of 2019 after Mesa Police responded to a sexual assault call at a massage therapy office near University Dr & Lindsay Rd. Investigators say when Lerma was alone with the victim, he pulled out a handgun and threatened her. Lerma was sexually assaulting the victim, causing her to scream as a witness entered the room. He then attempted to flee but left his car keys behind. He was arrested after calling 911, claiming he was a victim of theft at the business. While being interviewed by detectives, they say he admitted to a similar sexual assault at another Mesa massage business.
Lerma had already been contacted by police in February of 2019, after an incident with a third woman who he said had asked him for a ride. He told police at the time she was flirting with him, and there was sexual contact in the vehicle. The woman told a different story, saying Lerma approached her at a bus stop with a gun, forcing her into his vehicle, and sexually abusing her. At the time, the investigating detective was unable to collect enough evidence to prove or disprove the allegations.
It’s all too familiar for a Valley woman, who says her life was nearly ruined by Lerma in 2013. The then 21-year-old ASU student claims she, too, was sexually abused by Lerma while walking near campus. She pepper-sprayed the then-13-year-old boy in the face on March 28, 2013. Tempe Police investigated and cleared the teen, telling Arizona’s Family it was a case of mistaken identity. She was arrested days later after calling and then following Lerma and his mother to his elementary school to confront him. “She had pulled up from behind us, and she was swerving in and out of lanes to try to get beside our van,” said Shemetria Hill, Lerma’s mother “She just started flipping me off and stuff, and she was yelling at me.”
Eventually, the woman pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor charge of aggravated assault. Arizona’s Family is not identifying the woman because Lerma’s arrest and conviction suggest she is a sexual assault victim. She tells Arizona’s Family by phone that she feels vindicated that Lerma is now going to prison.
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