Suspect in Little Italy sexual assault attempt faces judge

SAN DIEGO — A man accused of ambushing a janitorial worker at a Little Italy coffee shop and trying to sexually assault her pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a half-dozen felony charges, including kidnapping with the intent to commit a sex offense.

Christopher Merron, 28, was ordered held on $1 million bail. He faces life in prison if convicted, said Deputy District Attorney Nicole Roth.

Merron allegedly attacked the woman as she was cleaning the coffee shop in the 1700 block of India Street about 4:30 a.m. last Sunday, pushing her into a back room, taking her car keys and threatening her with a knife.

Surveillance video captured the man accused of trying to sexually assault a woman while she worked in Little Italy and then stealing her SUV.

Following a struggle, the victim, whose name was withheld, was able to break free and run out of the building, said San Diego police Lt. Jason Weeden.

The assailant then fled in the woman’s tan 1998 GMC Jimmy SUV.

Merron was arrested in Mission Valley the next day and the victim’s stolen SUV was recovered, Weeden said.

“This was a brazen and serious sex crime,” Roth said outside court. “This was a traumatic event.”

Besides kidnapping with the intent to commit a sex offense, Merron is charged with assault with the intent to commit a sex offense, attempted oral copulation, false imprisonment with force, robbery and auto theft.

Merron will be back in court Oct. 26 for a readiness conference and Oct. 30 for a preliminary hearing.