The Ahwahnee
The Ahwahnee at Yosemite National Park. Credit: NPS

Prosecutors: Yosemite Employee ‘Forcibly Raped and Strangled’ Coworker

A federal court unsealed charging documents linked to a hospitality worker at Yosemite National Park who prosecutors say raped his co-worker.

A federal court unsealed charging documents last week linked to a hospitality worker at Yosemite National Park who prosecutors say raped his co-worker. In an announcement, the U.S. Attorney's Office say they charged 36-year-old Nathan Baptista with one count of aggravated sexual abuse. The charges stem from an incident in May when Baptista allegedly "forcibly raped and strangled" a fellow hospitality employee after meeting her.

What prosecutors say happened in Yosemite

According to the criminal complaint, the victim, listed as "C.J.", was walking with a friend near Baptista's house on May 30. When Baptista saw them, he invited them inside to celebrate the friend's birthday. After a few drinks, C.J. found herself alone with Baptista outside his house and he kissed her. She pushed him off and told him, "We're not doing that. I don't do that. It's not what I'm here for."

Later, after the friend left, C.J. went back inside the house where Baptista said he wanted to start a fire in the fireplace. That's when Baptista forced her onto the couch by grabbing her arms and shoving her. He got on top of her, started kissing her, pulled off her clothes, and forced himself inside of her.

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"He was slapping me in the face, and I was telling him to 'stop' and he started choking me and he wouldn't stop. I just kept telling him to stop. I told him to stop choking me. And when he stopped choking me, he just started hitting me in the face again," C.J. told investigators.

"There's not any moment that he wasn't choking me or slapping me in the face. I was clenching my legs together to try to get him off of me. That's when he started pinning me down and screaming at me to open my legs more. And I kept telling him to stop, he kept hitting me and kept choking me until he was f-ing done," C.J. continued.

After the alleged rape, C.J. said Baptista fell asleep and she immediately left his house. She said she was going to take the bus home, but decided to walk instead. She got back to her house around 4 a.m.

Sometime later on May 31, she contacted an off-duty special agent with the National Park Service about the attack. Although she said she did not need medical attention, she had visible bruises. The agent advised her to have a sexual assault forensic exam and later, agents recovered the clothing she wore during the alleged attack. C.J. also reported the incident to her human resources department at work, the company known as Yosemite Hospitality.

What others told investigators

Investigators say they interviewed Baptista on June 4 at his place of employment, the Lodge Bar in Yosemite. He told them that he got home around 11 p.m. and heard his friend outside, so he asked the friend and C.J. if they wanted some wine and later Wild Turkey bourbon to celebrate the friend's birthday.

Baptista said that he didn't know when the friend left, but C.J. told him that she asked the friend to leave so they could be alone. While sitting on the couch, he said she started kissing him. He added that at one point, she got up and "walked around in small circles for a moment" as if she was unsure if "she wanted to be intimate or not." He called it "strange," but she returned and continued kissing him.

Later, Baptista said C.J. started performing sex acts and he tried to "help her," but she reacted negatively and became verbally aggressive. "The way that she reacted to what I did led me to believe that I would either be hearing about this one way or another," Baptista told investigators. He said their sexual contact was limited to those sex acts. Investigators say they also asked Baptista to provide a DNA sample, but he declined.

Investigators also interviewed the friend, referred to as "A.B." He told them that C.J. and Baptista were engaged in conversation. But Baptista didn't seem "hostile" nor did the conversation seem "flirtatious." A.B. asked C.J. if she was ready to leave around 2 a.m., but she said she was talking to Baptista. So he told her he was ready to go and left. He said C.J. sent him a text message around 4 a.m. asking him where he went.

The prosecutor's evidence

In the complaint, investigators say the medical examination showed that C.J.'s injuries were consistent with what she said happened. An examination report documented abrasions or bruising on her neck, chest, eye, chin, and arms. Investigators also executed a search warrant at Baptista's house in Yosemite, where they found an earring belonging to C.J. under the couch cushion.

Although investigators filed the criminal complaint on June 7, the court agreed to seal the case during the investigatory process. Then, a grand jury indicted Baptista on June 20. Baptista has since been released on a $10,000 bond. He's scheduled to appear again in court on June 27.

If convicted, Baptista could face up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine. Earlier this month, a federal court sentenced a professional climber to life in prison for raping a woman inside Yosemite. Although most sexual abuse convictions result in an average of 16 years in prison, prosecutors say Charles Barrett had a long history of abusing women.