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Mesa man accused of serial rape in 2018 appears before judge

James Estep, 32, is facing 30 felonies and accused of assaulting or kidnapping six victims dating back to 2018.

PHOENIX — An accused serial rapist from Mesa appeared before a judge Thursday as prosecutors asked for a harsher bond.

“The defendant represents an ongoing danger to the community," said prosecutor Elizabeth Lake. 

James Estep, 32, faces thirty felonies and is accused of sexually assaulting or kidnapping six victims. The cases date back to 2018 and are as recent as August of this year.

RELATED: Suspected serial rapist indicted for 30 felonies in Maricopa County

Detectives from Tempe PD and Mesa PD also testified during the hearing.

After an alleged August sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl in Tempe, Estep was held on a $500,000 bond. Prosecutors say that's not enough.

“The defendant’s continued violation of the law is something that no amount of 'please don’t do this anymore, here’s an ankle monitor to help you' is going to prevent," Lake said.

Estep's defense attorney, Dakota Johnson, asked for the existing cash bond along with an ankle monitor and house arrest. 

Estep was arrested twice this year prior to his most recent arrest. He was released after the county attorney's office declined to file charges. Johnson pointed to that decision to make his case on Thursday.

“That shouldn’t be held against Mr. Estep because someone else decided there was a reason out there why they didn’t charge him not once but twice," Johnson said.

Ultimately, Judge Mark Brain sided with the state. Estep is now not bondable.

“The defendant poses a clear danger to the community," Brain said.

Estep is due back in court on November 1.

Previous cases linked to Estep

According to an indictment, Estep sexually assaulted a victim in September of 2018.

In May of 2021, there was another alleged assault in Mesa. Police say Estep approached a woman and claimed to be a pastor and asked if she needed a place to stay. Police say Estep drove them to a lot near McDowell and Greenfield roads.

“The defendant got aggressive, grabbed her by the neck, pushed her into the wall and said you’re gonna do what I want," said a Mesa PD detective in court.

In April of this year, there was another sexual assault case. Police say Estep drove the woman to an area near a church on Stapley Drive.

“The defendant put her in a chokehold and said she can do this passed out," the Mesa PD detective said.

Estep was arrested in May and released after the county attorney declined to file charges. 

RELATED: Mesa man accused of raping victim in church parking lot

Another victim came to police in June. She said Estep forcibly pulled her into his truck and took off. She managed to get away.

“She jumped out of the vehicle and ran down the road," the Mesa detective said.

Less than a week later in July, police say he attacked again. This time, it was a woman he met on Mill Avenue. She went back to Estep's Mesa home and at first, the meeting was consensual.

“The defendant stated you’re not going anywhere yet," the detective said. "She tried to push him off but she was unable to.”

The woman went through a forensic exam and Estep was arrested a second time this year. He was released days later after the county attorney's office again failed to file charges.

In July, Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell faced questions about why.

“I spent 25 years of my career doing these types of cases and I believe that additional work needs to be done," Mitchell said.

Mitchell was asked if she was concerned Estep would reoffend again in the meantime.

“Of course I’m concerned," Mitchell said.

Less than a month after those comments, Tempe PD say Estep sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl after offering her a ride from a light rail stop.

“She continued to resist and every time she resisted he would assault her and or strangle her," said a Tempe PD detective in court Thursday.

The August case prompted police to show up to Estep's home and after barricading himself in his attic, Estep was arrested.

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