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Manhunt subject gets four years

SONOMA COUNTY SHERIFF’S deputies arrested James Rivas on May 1, after a three-hour manhunt. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

SONOMA COUNTY SHERIFF’S deputies arrested James Rivas on May 1, after a three-hour manhunt. Bill Hoban/Index-Tribune

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A man who was the object of a citywide manhunt in May pleaded no contest to three charges and was sentenced last month to four years in prison.

According to a spokesperson for the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office, James Craig Rivas, 37, pled “no contest” to charges of felon in possession of a firearm, possession of a stolen vehicle and obstructing or resisting arrest. Rivas has numerous other charges, including burglary, vehicle theft and obstructing an executive officer, that were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

Rivas’ cohort in crime, 33-year-old Marissa Serafino, of Oakland, is scheduled for a jury trial starting Feb. 21. Serafino is facing charges of felony evading arrest, resisting arrest, assault on a police officer, felony burglary, felony vehicle theft, weapons charges and felony possession of stolen property.

The pair were arrested May 1, after a high-speed chase and a massive four-hour manhunt around the Sonoma Plaza and the northeast side of Sonoma.

The manhunt, which eventually involved more than 30 Sheriff’s units and the California Highway Patrol, started around 10:20 a.m. that day when a resident in the 200 block of Temelec Circle reported that she saw a man breaking into her car. She also saw that the man was with a woman in a nearby vehicle and gave the Sheriff’s Office a description of the vehicle and a partial license plate.

A few minutes later, a deputy on the way to the Temelec break-in saw the suspect vehicle on Arnold Drive and Petaluma Avenue and made a traffic stop. While talking with the female driver, the deputy saw a man, who turned out to be Rivas, trying to hide fully reclined in the passenger’s seat. At that point, the driver took off, but struck the deputy in the arm with the van’s side view mirror.

A high-speed chase ensued but deputies lost sight of the vehicle around Sonoma Highway and West Spain Street.

Later, witnesses told deputies that someone had thrown a shotgun out of the vehicle in the vicinity of Petaluma Avenue and Riverside Drive. The shotgun was loaded.

The van was found abandoned in the parking lot of an apartment building in the 300 block of First Street West. It was later determined that the van had been stolen in Concord.

Deputies set up a perimeter in the area, but started expanding it as time went on. They expanded their search to the area of Lovall Valley Road and Gehricke Road after a witness said he saw a man matching the description of the suspect running through a vineyard.

At about 1 p.m., a citizen called in from La Casa restaurant on the East Spain Street reporting a man matching the suspect’s description had just asked to use his cell phone. Deputies responded to the restaurant and arrested Rivas.

Deputies continued searching for the female suspect in and around the Sonoma Plaza. ?At about 2 p.m., a resident in the 300 block of First Street West reported her home had been burglarized and her Toyota Camry had been stolen within the last hour. Evidence at the burglary scene indicated the female suspect changed out of her clothes and into some of the victim’s clothing. ??

At 2:15 p.m., deputies located the victim’s stolen car parked in front of the Cheese Factory on Spain Street. Detectives in unmarked cars staked-out the vehicle to wait for the female suspect to return to the car. ?

They didn’t have to wait long. At 2:45 p.m., the Serafino returned to the stolen vehicle. She was wearing the victim’s clothing and carrying a bag of items she had stolen from the house on First Street West. Serafino was taken into custody without incident.