You know Charisma Carpenter for playing cheerleader Cordelia on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, for turning that same character into a detective on spinoff Angel, and maybe for popping up in action series The Expendables, as well as in the rape mystery of Veronica Mars. But the first time her name appeared in the news, it was years before she acted at all. It was also a horrifying story that contained elements of every role we just listed ...
Carpenter was 21 at the time, which meant it would be another six years or so before she was old enough to play 16-year-old Cordelia Chase on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She was working as both the leasing agent of an apartment complex and a cheerleader for the San Diego Chargers. Carpenter lived in one of the units of the complex she managed and happened to know that the sliding doors had all been installed backward, meaning burglars could easily force them open. So when she repeatedly awoke to the sounds of someone clawing at the doorknobs, she had reason to worry.
She asked friends to stay over and keep watch. She stayed elsewhere when she could. She set up what she called booby traps, piling pots and pans over inner doors so they'd crush any intruder, or at least make a loud noise. If all this sounds like the prelude to a home invasion horror story, well, it isn't. Instead, Carpenter jumped into an unrelated, totally different horror movie prologue: One Thursday night, she went to the beach with a couple friends for a midnight swim.
Even at night, the beach felt safe -- at the very least, safer than home. Plus, they passed a police car on their way there, and what could be more reassuring than that? The gang decided to strip to their underwear and get in the water. While the two guys (Aldo Ochoa and her ex Arthur Gracia) shed their clothes right by the water, Carpenter figured a better spot was under the lifeguard tower, so she had a place to fold her clothes and not have them stolen by some random crab.
Something rustled nearby. It sounded like maybe someone was camped under the tower, which isn't the most pleasant surprise when you're taking off your jeans and thought you were alone, but it wasn't necessarily a cause for alarm. San Diego had homeless people all over the place, and they generally aren't looking to attack. Then the guy revealed himself. Judging by his ski mask and gun, there was, in fact, cause for a gigantic alarm because he was not there for a quick dip.
The man got all three of them together and had the guys fetch their clothes so they could turn over their wallets and keys. Then he instructed Charisma to tie Arthur up with his belt. As she describes it, "I put the pin in the hole, but I don't put the slack underneath. So, it looks nice and smooth." Meaning, she faked tying Arthur up tightly, and if you're having trouble working out the exact mechanics of what she did, we can only recommend you get a belt and a consenting partner, and try it out yourself.
The man next ordered her to bind Aldo. With her "leave a little wiggle room in the belts" plan possibly not enough to save them all, Charisma figured she was now better off just refusing to obey. So he gave her his flashlight to hold and moved to tie Aldo up himself. "What are you going to do, rape me?" she asked. "You bet your sweet ass I am," is what Arthur remembers him replying, and this was a mistake on the man's part ... Uh, in addition to all his other trash life choices up to this point.
Maybe if he pretended to be only a robber for a little longer, he could have tied them all up and stayed in control (as, though the trio didn't know it, he had managed to do during five earlier attacks this summer). Instead, both Arthur and Aldo got up to fight back. The man shot each of them, Arthur in the right side of his chest and Aldo in the liver. Charisma, meanwhile, took the opportunity to run to the nearby highway and pound on a parked camper to try to get help. No one was inside, and no other help materialized.
Back at the beach, Aldo was down, but Arthur kept going with a time-honored move: "I grabbed him and bit his ear twice and behind his back." Yeah, he fought Tyson-style. He also managed to grab the gun at one point and fire one successful shot himself. The man, now wounded, retrieved the gun but took off. Arthur headed to the highway after Charisma, who at first mistook him for the masked man. Then the two of them went back to Aldo -- who was the more severely injured and was praying like he was about to die -- and carried him into their jeep so they could go get help.
They drove to a convenience store, where they asked the cashier to call 911. This cashier was too bewildered at the sight of two youngsters in their underwear covered in blood to do anything, so they got his phone and dialed it themselves. An ambulance arrived. Despite pausing for some needless interrogation ("What were you doing at the beach at that hour?"), the emergency personnel got them to a hospital, where both guys got treatment.
Only later did Charisma realize she still had the man's flashlight. It was a police flashlight. And it had a name on it: "HUBBARD."
A lot of what we know about the early life of Henry Hubbard Jr., we got from the psychologist who interviewed him for 10 hours for his defense. Henry's father abused his mother, and Henry's eventual penchant for raping women while their male companion looked on was a way of lashing out against his father, claimed the psychologist. It also supposedly related to his suspicions that his wife didn't love him, and when he "demanded" sex from his wife, he realized he was quite similar to his father after all.
Hubbard set state baseball records in high school and played a little college ball before getting drafted by the Padres. He played in the minor leagues for three years before a knee injury cut his career short, so he returned to college. Hubbard worked in private security then joined the police academy, where he was at the top of his class. He even starred in a TV documentary called The Making of a Cop, talking about wanting to be an officer even as a boy. According to the psychologist, he joined the force to care for people, but then the brutality of the job hit him hard. So, he, uh, you know, started raping people.
One of his victims, Charmaine Agnos, went public to describe what his successful attacks were like. Her story begins similarly to what happened with Charisma Carpenter. She was on the beach with her boyfriend for a Fourth of July bonfire, then Hubbard showed up with his gun. He got her to tie the boyfriend with masking tape in a nearby dark cave. If you saw this year's film Palm Springs, picture the cave from that movie, the only difference being that while that cave was the setting for an anomaly that forces you to relive one period of time endlessly, this cave ... er, never mind, there's no difference.
Hubbard got frustrated for a while because he couldn't get an erection, then he put Charmaine's T-shirt over her face, pressed a gun to her head, and was able to go through with it. When she reported what happened to the police, she learned she was likely the third target of a serial rapist. And she wasn't the last -- soon after, Hubbard went after two kids, ages 13 and 14. He asked his soon-to-be victim if she was a virgin, and on learning she was, he said, "We'll have to change that," according to one source. Another source simply quotes him as quipping, "Well, not anymore."
The San Diego police mobilized against whoever was terrorizing the beaches. Officers wearing wires posed as lovers, acting as bait. Helicopters hovered close to the beaches and prepared to chase a fleeing suspect should the need arise. The task force even sent in snipers. Internally, the police department likened the situation to Amity Island's in Jaws, and yet no matter where they sent their teams and no matter how well they maintained their cover, they never spotted their guy.
Victims described the man for them, but between the ski mask, the darkness, and the fog of trauma, their descriptions were somewhat less than reliable. Some said he was Black, some white. Some said he was stocky, some thin. At one police briefing, they actually had an accurate description of a tall, thin, Black man. "Sounds like you, Henry," one sergeant joked. If Hubbard were a regular TV psychopath, he would have laughed this off, but he glared at this and balled his fists.
When the truth about Hubbard came out, plenty of people would swear that a policeman was the most unlikely culprit possible. Inside the force, though, some already suspected one of their own. A detective named Floyd Feese investigated the first two attacks and was the first person to suggest that, even though victims described such different assailants, a single man was responsible. And based on victim testimony, this man sounded to him like a cop.
Feese considered how witnesses said the man stood and how they said he spoke, how he held his flashlight, and how he aimed his gun. The rapist commanded his victims like someone used to authority. And then there was his stubborn refusal to strike on any night when police were on secret patrol, like he had inside info about their plans. On the other hand, we can't look to Freese as the infallible expert on this case. Here's how he responded on learning about Charisma Carpenter escaping him: "He allowed a female victim who assaulted him to escape. That tells you he's really getting kinky."
Early morning, August 16, Hubbard entered UC San Diego Medical Center with a gunshot wound to his hand. His story was that his car had stalled, and then three Hispanic men had jumped him. It didn't make much sense to the doctor -- how had he driven here if his car stalled? why so much sand on his clothes? -- and anyway, rules said he had to report the shot to the police department. Later, when confronted with his flashlight being found at the scene of that night's attack, Hubbard would argue enemies on the force were framing him. But this medical evidence, combined with the evidence from the crime scene, left little room for doubt.
Little doubt that Hubbard attacked Charisma Carpenter and the guys, anyway. As for the other five incidents, police brought in the other victims to identify him by his voice in a lineup. Charmaine Agnos had him deliver the line she remembered most: "Shut up, you smartass." He was the guy, she said. And when confronted with more and more accusations, Hubbard chose to plead guilty to every single one of them.
Meanwhile, as Carpenter looked more into this guy the news was saying attacked her, she discovered something really chilling: Hubbard was her tenant. They'd never met face to face as far as she could remember, but she managed his lease. So she asked police if maybe he'd been that mystery guy pawing at her door. Though cops were skeptical, since that sounded so different from his usual MO, they noted one case near her complex of an intruder raping someone in their home. Then they compared DNA from that case to Hubbard's, and it was a match. That was one more charge against him, and after investigating further, they concluded that, yeah, he'd been stalking Carpenter, so that beach attack on her wasn't chance.
Hubbard was sentenced to 56 years in prison, possibly the rest of his life. Aldo and Arthur got out of the hospital okay (Aldo with the bullet left permanently in his liver as a keepsake), so the trio recovered from the incident quickly until you factor in the PTSD. Decades later, Charisma Carpenter got to relate her experience on a show called Surviving Evil, a documentary series she hosted for three years, with the pilot about Hubbard and then the rest about other crimes. It does make for quite a story, if only because detective Floyd Feese chasing villain Henry Hubbard who faces heroine Charisma Carpenter and sidekicks, Arthur and Aldo, sounds like something out of a comic book ... or from the darkest ever story from Mother Goose.
Top Image: 20th Television