San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan said today that a defendant who admitted breaking into Del Mar homes and sexually assaulting women in the mid-1990s lost his bid for parole at an emotional hearing held this morning. After the hearing to weigh his suitability for release, parole officials denied 49-year-old Robert Dean Rustad’s request, and said he should not be up for consideration again for another three years.
“Two of this rapist’s victims were at the hearing today and justice was served because the panel sees this inmate is still not being truthful about his true motivation for these crimes,” DA Stephan said. “Our DA Lifer Unit handles these hearings, led by Deputy DA John Cross. The Unit does an excellent job of representing victims and working to protect the safety of our communities when violent criminals are being considered for release.”
Rustad, also known as the Del Mar Rapist, brutally raped seven women from 1992 through 1996 before he was finally caught. Most were threatened at knifepoint and tied up. One was badly beaten. He was between the ages of 19 and 22 when he committed the crimes. Rustad pleaded guilty to 36 criminal counts, including rape. He was sentenced in 1997 to a 326 years-to-life prison term but came up for parole early through the state’s Youth parole law, which considers a person’s age at the time of their offense. His last parole hearing was in 2020 when he was denied release for five years, however he came up early for this latest parole hearing by filing a Petition to Advance his hearing that was granted.
Rustad has claimed his actions were driven by a desire for a girlfriend-type relationship. “His motivation was clearly sadistic and his inability to accept that continues to make him a serious threat to society,” said DA Stephan.
The DA’s Lifer Hearing Unit has two main goals: to ensure that dangerous prisoners with life sentences are not released carelessly or improvidently, and to ensure that crime victims and their families are given an opportunity to participate in the parole hearing process and have their voices heard.
When a defendant is given a life sentence, the Lifer Hearing Unit processes the case to ensure that it is ready for future parole suitability hearings. This involves preserving victims’ statements and documenting the gravity of the crimes to ensure the offenders serve sentences proportional to their crimes.
Last year, there were 664 lifer parole hearings scheduled in San Diego County. Of those, 96 inmates received parole grants from the California Board of Parole Hearings. The remainder of the hearings –568– resulted in denials, postponements, or stipulations to a denial of parole.
In addition, the Lifer Hearing Unit tracks court activity on lifer cases and assists the Attorney General’s Office in opposing writs of habeas corpus seeking release. The Lifer Hearing Unit also submits amicus briefs on behalf of the California District Attorneys Association on important cases. The Lifer Hearing Unit is the state-wide leader in lifer matters and San Diego County serves as the training office for other prosecutors who seek to understand the complex laws governing parole hearings.