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Early Warning: Kelly Ordaz's attempted-rape case is being re-opened by prosecutors in the trial of Emilio Brotherton, who is charged with murdering a 39-year-old mother of three and throwing her body in a dumpster last summer.

Crime Botch

A young woman says if police had been vigilant about her report of an attempted rape by an ex-con seven months ago, Gloria Bonilla might still be alive

By Traci Hukill

KELLY ORDAZ IS SCARED, relieved and outraged. Thirteen months ago she had a run-in with Emilio Brotherton, a twice-convicted sex offender and prison parolee currently awaiting trial for murder. The encounter, which she describes as an attempted rape, left her with shaken nerves, a broken hair clip and a ripped pair of pants--but physically unharmed.

Her friends tell her she's lucky to be alive. Ordaz agrees, but she is also angry because she believes her experience, which she reported to police, could have saved the life of Gloria Bonilla.

Bonilla, 39, was last seen alive by witnesses leaving the Normandy House Lounge in Santa Clara with Emilio Brotherton on June 10, seven months after Ordaz told her story to police. Bonilla, a deli cashier and mother of three, disappeared and was found two weeks later in a north San Jose landfill, her naked and badly decomposed remains nearly unidentifiable. The damaged body had been thrown in a dumpster and then heaved into a landfill along with tons of garbage; the county coroner named the cause of death "probable homicidal violence." Brotherton is now in custody awaiting trial.

To Kelly Ordaz, there is no question that if San Jose police had paid more attention to her report, Gloria Bonilla would still be alive.

"They screwed up royally," she says. "Had they done their job, so much would have been saved. He never would have killed that woman."

Ordaz describes an investigation that consisted mostly of the sexual assault unit investigator asking her to try to reach Brotherton by phone in order to tape record him saying he was sorry. She recalls wondering why the information she gave them about Brotherton--where he lived, who his brother was, his prior record as a convicted rapist, even his name and an alias--wasn't enough for police to find and question him, especially since he was a convicted and registered sex offender.

The police department, in turn, blames it on a case of mistaken identity: one of Brotherton's aliases is the name of another local man, roughly the same age, also with a prior record. For a while, they say, they were pursuing the wrong man.

Bureaucratic confusion played a part, too. Several months after taking Ordaz's case, the investigating officer was assigned to another unit. Then, when the new sexual-assault investigator tried to contact Ordaz, police say, she failed to return the officer's phone calls.

Ordaz denies that anyone tried to contact her after the first investigator, in her words, "dropped the ball." And she continues to ask: what does it take to get a convicted sex offender off the streets after he's tried to rape someone again?

FOR KELLY ORDAZ, the whole thing started on the evening before Thanksgiving Day in 1998. She and a group of friends she'd known since high school (she was 21 at the time) were at The Usual, a club in downtown San Jose. She remembers her friend Art Brotherton introducing her to his brother Emilio, whom she describes as "little and scrawny and wearing this cheesy medallion." When Emilio asked her if he could buy her a drink or dance with her, she refused. And that was that, or so she thought. She didn't see him at the bar again.

But after leaving the nightclub, Ordaz drove her friends home, first her girlfriends, then Art Brotherton. At Art's apartment, Ordaz and Art ate microwaveable burritos and then Ordaz fell asleep in the living room.

When she woke up, she says, Emilio was on top of her. At first, she says, he was trying to be nice, trying to come on to her and win her over by seduction. She kept on saying no, hoping he'd give up, until suddenly they were both screaming and struggling.

"Everywhere his hands went, my hands went," she says. "He banged my head on the floor. He ripped the buttons off my pants. My hair clip broke."

Meanwhile, she says, Emilio Brotherton was screaming that he was going to kick her face in and leave her for dead. He asked if she knew where he'd been.

"Prison!" he shouted. "Do you know why? For rape."

Ordaz finally got away from Brotherton when she hit him in the face. She ran outside the apartment and down the stairs--and then saw that her car was missing. That's when she realized Art was gone and she was alone.

It was the first flash of terror. "You never really think they're gonna do it," she says. "Then the minute I got outside and my car wasn't there, I started freaking out. And [Emilio] was coming outside."

Just at that moment, she says, Art drove up. She told him what happened and asked where he'd gone.

Art told her that Emilio had called him after Ordaz had fallen asleep and was angry that he hadn't been driven home. Art had left to find his brother to give him a ride, but without success.

Shaken and scared, Ordaz went home. It took her almost a week to drum up the courage to report the incident.

"I wasn't sure I should do it," she explains. "Because this is my good friend's brother, and what if it throws a monkey wrench in the whole group? Then I just decided to do it."

Ordaz says two female police officers came to her house to take a police report. She gave them her torn pants as evidence and rode with them in the squad car to show them where the apartment was. She says she explained that she was a good friend of the assailant's brother, and that the man who attacked her had been in prison for rape.

She says she told them that his first name was Emilio, but that his last name might be either Pizano or Brotherton--she didn't know which. She knew Art had been born Pizano but later adopted his stepfather's name because he didn't get along with his natural father. She wasn't sure if Emilio had done the same. But she says she's certain she provided both names.

Meanwhile, Ordaz says, Art Brotherton called her several times in the week following the attack. Once he said his brother was denying everything. Another time he said his brother was sorry and wanted to apologize.

Six days after Ordaz reported the assault, Detective Germain Iglesias of the sexual assault unit contacted her. She went down to the station, told him what happened, and at Iglesias' request tried to call Emilio Brotherton to get an apology on tape.

She never reached him, and she went back to the station repeatedly to try again. At one point Iglesias outfitted her telephone at home with a recording device that she could turn on if she ever managed to reach Emilio Brotherton.

"It went on two months, maybe," she says. "For two months they had me doing their job. This goes on and then all of a sudden it stops. It just drops."

Then, after the Gloria Bonilla story broke in June, Ordaz received a spate of phone calls from friends who'd seen the coverage on TV. By then Brotherton was already the primary suspect.

"I got phone calls from people saying, 'That's him, that's the guy. You're so lucky that didn't happen to you.' "

At that point Ordaz's mother called the police to tell them the prime suspect in the Bonilla murder had tried to rape her daughter seven months earlier. Shortly after that a second detective called Ordaz wanting to do an investigation--this time for real.

IN 1989 EMILIO BROTHERTON, a.k.a. Emilio Pizano, a.k.a. Smiley, was convicted of felony assault with intent to commit rape. He was 18 at the time.

A year and a half later, in January 1991, he was found guilty of raping a 10-year-old Milpitas girl and sentenced to 13 years in prison. He got out on parole in 1998.

Brotherton was still on parole when he allegedly attacked Ordaz and took Gloria Bonilla on her last date. Under Megan's Law he is required to register as a sex offender. This he did, both in October 1998 and in January 1999.

After police questioned him because Gloria Bonilla was last seen in his company in a bar, they took him into custody for violating the terms of his parole. (Brotherton was prohibited from going to bars). That was June 16, just four days after Gloria Bonilla's family had notified police of her disappearance.

When asked why Brotherton was at large up until that point, even though months earlier Kelly Ordaz had taken police to the apartment, described how he tried to rape her, given them his brother's name and explained that this was a man who had been convicted of rape, police say they were confused about his identity.

Lt. Mike O'Connor is the homicide investigator handling the Gloria Bonilla case while the primary investigator is out for surgery. This case was not O'Connor's to begin with, but as soon as Ordaz's mother called police alerting them to Brotherton's history with her daughter, the Ordaz assault became part of the Bonilla case and O'Connor became its spokesman. Metro was unable to reach the original sexual assault investigator for comment.

But O'Connor says it's his understanding that Ordaz gave the police only one name to work with: Pizano. He says police thought the suspect was a different Emilio Pizano, one who is nearly the same age as Emilio Brotherton, a.k.a. Emilio Pizano (now 29). They even produced the wrong Emilio Pizano's photograph for one of the photo lineups. The deputy district attorney working on the case confirms this.

Asked if anyone questioned this Emilio Pizano--the wrong one--when Ordaz's case was first filed, O'Connor says no. And he doesn't seem to know why.

"I'm not really sure why that was done," he says.

Asked if anyone wondered if the brother of the assailant, Art Brotherton, might have the same last name as his brother, or even if he might know where his brother was, O'Connor responds simply, "In retrospect it all becomes very clear. At the time it was not so clear."

OFFICER IGLESIAS has since been reassigned to the patrol unit. As to whether the department "dropped the ball," O'Connor says he has records showing that Detective Chris Buell, who took over the investigation, tried to contact Kelly Ordaz on March 16, March 17 and April 7 of 1999. O'Connor lists three contact numbers to which Buell had access: at Ordaz's workplace, at her father's house and at her own apartment.

Ordaz says she never got a message at any of the numbers, on voice mail or otherwise. Nor did she receive the letter police say they sent to her dad's house on May 29 requesting a response within two days, on June 1.

All of which frustrates Ordaz. First and foremost, she says, she "definitely" gave them two possible last names for her assailant. And the three phone calls and the letter are little more than fiction, she says.

"They're lying. I would put my life on it that they never called," she says.

Missed phone calls, phantom letters, a case of mistaken identity. At its worst, this case looks like a seriously botched job. At its best it looks like one plagued by unfortunate coincidences from its wobbly beginning to its inconclusive end.

But maybe the saddest and most telling coincidence is the final one.

Without having interviewed any suspects, police closed Ordaz's case on June 10, the day Gloria Bonilla put on her leopard print tank top and black pants and went to meet a guy named Emilio Brotherton for drinks and her last supper.

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From the January 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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