Merced man who tortured, held woman hostage sentenced to mental facility

Doctors determine defendant insane

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comOctober 25, 2012 

A 40-year-old man accused of imprisoning and torturing his girlfriend inside a Loughborough apartment three years ago probably will spend the rest of his life in a state mental institution.

Daniel Ruben Gonzales was sentenced Tuesday by Judge Marc Garcia to a state mental institution for a maximum period of confinement of 332 years, four months.

Gonzales had pleaded guilty to 25 counts, including forcible rape, false imprisonment, assault, sodomy, torture and a variety of enhancements, according to prosecutor Nicole Silveira.

But two doctors who evaluated Gonzales determined he was insane at the time of the alleged crime.

Because of those evaluations, Garcia determined Gonzales was not guilty by reason of insanity. As a result, he will be headed to a state mental facility, as opposed to prison. Gonzales' medical records have been sealed.

Silveira said the judge carefully considered the doctors' evaluations. "I think (the sentence) is appropriate, given the circumstances," she said, adding that Gonzales probably will never be released, given the length of the sentence and the gravity of the offenses.

Interim Public Defender Eric Dumars, Gonzales' attorney, said his client could eventually be released if his sanity is restored.

Whether that will ever happen is unknown. "But I think they are going to look at what type of danger he presents before they let him out again," Dumars said.

Even before his most recent arrest, Gonzales had been treated at a state mental facility, Dumars said. Since Gonzales' arrest in October 2009, he's been to the state hospital twice to restore his sanity to a level at which he could deal with court proceedings.

"It's pretty obvious talking to him that he's not well," Dumars said.

When asked whether Gonzales feels any remorse for his actions, Dumars said he doesn't know, because his client doesn't process emotions the way "normal people" do.

Merced police detectives believe Gonzales had been holding his live-in girlfriend inside their apartment in the 3200 block of Denver Avenue since at least mid-August to late October 2009.

2nd victim tells police

Police said they learned about the abuse after another female victim showed up at the department's central station and said Gonzales had released her after hours of abuse inside his apartment.

She told police another woman was still at the apartment with Gonzales and was in danger.

Police went to the apartment and Gonzales denied abusing anyone. As he and the officer spoke, Gonzales' girlfriend, her face bloodied and bruised, appeared behind him and mouthed the words, "Help me."

Officer Lance O'Brien tried to arrest Gonzales, but he resisted, police said. The two men fought until backup arrived and officers were able to handcuff Gonzales.

Investigators believe Gonzales refused for months to let his girlfriend leave their apartment. They say he subjected her to beatings, rapes, sodomy, burns and stabbings. Police said she told them that Gonzales tried to cut off her fingers, and once stabbed her and left her bleeding until she lost consciousness.

Authorities said the woman who reported the abuse to police had been held for less than a day before Gonzales let her go. She told police she went to his apartment willingly, but he blocked her from leaving. He then beat her and forced the two women to fight.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.