It was the nightmare every parent fears.
A 13-year-old girl was on her way to her school bus stop one early August morning when she was grabbed by a stranger, dragged behind a building and sexually assaulted.
If there is any relieving news in the case, it was that Las Vegas police swiftly arrested someone, who pleaded guilty last week to the crime and faces a life prison term.
Richard Schlacta, a 49-year-old Californian with a lengthy criminal history, pleaded guilty to one count each of sexual assault with the victim being under age 14 and first-degree kidnapping.
Schlacta faces two life prison sentences for which he must serve at least 40-years before being eligible for parole.
A sentencing hearing is set for May 1 before District Judge James Bixler.
Schlacta struck a deal last week with prosecutors, who dropped eight other charges against the defendant.
Prosecutors said Schlacta, who is represented by the public defender’s office, attacked the girl as she waited for a school bus near Harmon Avenue and U.S. Highway 95.
The petite, blond-haired 13-year-old girl, bravely faced her attacker at a November hearing and testified against him.
“A bad thing happened” early Aug. 28 the girl said with a soft, tender voice at the hearing.
She said that Schlacta grabbed her, threatened to slit her throat with a box cutter, dragged her behind a building at Woodbury Middle School and sexually assaulted her.
During the hearing, the girl steeled herself and pointed to Schlacta as he sat at the defense table when she was asked to identify her attacker. The girl recognized him even though Schlacta had changed his appearance in the months between his arrest and the hearing. He had grown his hair out — he was bald at the time of the attack — and shaved his mustache.
She described her repeated attempts to pull away and the knife cuts she suffered during the attack.
The girl escaped after he turned her around and began to rip her clothes off. She said, “Let me.” It gave her attacker pause, enough for her to bolt.
“I never looked back,” she said.
She ran into the street, screaming, and waved down a passing car. Two women helped her and called police.
The girl was waiting for a bus to take her to Knudson Middle School, a creative arts, language and technology magnet program school when Schlacta approached her about 5:45 a.m., prosecutors said.
Schlacta fled, but was found soon after hiding under a pop-up trailer in a driveway nearby.
Meanwhile, Bixler ordered Schlacta be held in isolation at the Clark County Detention Center pending his sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors have sought to keep Schlacta under tight watch with little contact with anyone outside of the jail after he allegedly spoke to another inmate at the jail about killing the teen victim. Schlacta has not been charged with that crime.
Authorities said they learned of the plot after an unidentified inmate wrote a letter to the victim and her family and warned them of Schlacta’s intentions.
Schlacta learned the victim’s address when reviewing court documents in the case, authorities said.
The defendant has a lengthy criminal history in California, including convictions on burglary, vehicle theft and drug charges in 1993.
He went to prison and was released in 1995. But after being convicted in 2003 on similar charges, he was imprisoned until 2012 based on the state’s “second strike” law, which doubled his sentence.
Schlacta also was imprisoned from February to June last year on a drug charge, which didn’t qualify as a “third strike” under California’s law, authorities have said.
In all, Schlacta had been found guilty of 19 different charges in nine cases prior to coming to Las Vegas.
Contact reporter Francis McCabe at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe