Church members honored for stopping suspected rapist in Lancaster in 2015

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Four men were honored Thursday with Courageous Citizen Awards by Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey for stopping a convicted rapist in Lancaster in 2015.

The good Samaritans had a cellphone that day and helped capture a man suspected of raping a 15-year-old girl.

That footage was presented at the trial of Joseph Cornett, 42, who was convicted of 15 charges, including the rape of a child over 15 years old.

The confrontation happened just outside Lancaster Baptist Church in May 2015. Parishioners and church workers first saw a naked teenager in a panic.

"She was running through the desert with no clothes on. She was injured, scared. She was screaming that she had been raped and that she needed help," prosecutor Jonathan Hatami said.

Ben Hobbs was one of four men honored Thursday. The others include Dominic Kalmeta, Brandon Fenoglio and Sherwin Santiago. Hobbs described the dramatic chase.

"As you can tell he was a big guy and he was on his way to leave. We weren't expecting to have a confrontation at all," said the business manager for the Lancaster Church School.

In the video, Cornett is seen jumping into his Monte Carlo and trying to flee through the desert, but gets stuck in the sand. The parishioners kept him there until police arrived to arrest him.

Hobbs said it was more than just luck that helped them that day.

"It is just Providential. You can see there he is stuck. And really all along the way it was God bringing the right people in at the right time, probably a dozen different people at the right place at the right time," Hobbs said.

Cornett was eventually sentenced to 100 years to life in prison.

Hobbs said that his action was a matter of doing the right thing.

"You'll never regret getting involved. It's just our duty. It's our duty as a citizen and trying to make our community (and) keep our community a great place to live," he said.
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