by Samantha Rahn and Nathan Yanez
Massage Parlor Owner Testifies in Ongoing Murder Trial
By Samantha Rahn
Woodland – Another woman claims that Rohail Sarwar attempted to sexually assault her, all while earning himself the nickname of “pee guy.”
Rohail Sarwar is on trial for allegedly murdering, stabbing, and attempting to sexually assault Junying Lu, also known as Lucy. The trial resumes with the testimony from the owner of Cottonwood Massage, located in Woodland. She takes the stand along with a Chinese interpreter.
Deputy District Attorney Diane Ortiz began by questioning the witness about the timeline of events that occurred last summer. The owner believes that Lucy began working at the massage parlor around July 28, 2018. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Sarwar earned the pseudonym “pee guy” after urinating on the massage table. The witness walked the courtroom through the events of that day.
She explained that the massage began normally, with Mr. Sarwar lying face down for the first 30 minutes. After working on his head and neck for five minutes, she proceeded to his shoulders and arms. When she began to massage his thighs, however, he sat up, put his arm around her neck, and tried to take off her clothes.
The owner struggled with Mr. Sarwar, but he was able to push her onto the bed and attempted to remove her pants. The woman, who does not speak English well, heard him use the words “sex” and “money.” It was only after she said the words “police” and “911” that Mr. Sarwar let her go.
He began to make his way to the front door but stopped when he noticed a security guard sitting outside. This prompted him to leave through the back door instead. After closing the door behind Mr. Sarwar, the owner returned to the room where the events had just transpired. She immediately discovered that he had urinated on the bed and covered it up with a towel.
At the time, Lucy had been with her own client in the adjacent room. Lucy helped collect the pee-soaked towels and the owner told her what had just happened. She told her that if the “pee guy” ever returned, to deny him service; however, she viewed him as dangerous and instructed Lucy to avoid offending him by telling him “we are busy.”
When questioned by Ms. Ortiz as to whether or not she reported the attempted sexual assault, she responded, “No.” The owner explained that one reason she chose not to report the attempted sexual assault was that she did not have any evidence. Another reason, she said, is that she did not want her family to worry. She told the courtroom that in China, it is very shameful to be a victim of sexual assault and it usually goes unreported.
The prosecution then presented the woman with a photo. Ms. Ortiz asked if she was able to identify the man in the picture. The owner said that the man is the “pee guy” and that he is present in the courtroom. Upon identifying Mr. Sarwar, she explained that she took this picture to add him to the blacklist. She described the blacklist as a list that contains the names and photos of clients that have exhibited bad behavior and are no longer allowed to be serviced. Mr. Sarwar is the only person she has ever needed to place on the list.
Following the day of the incident, the owner recalled that Mr. Sarwar returned to the massage parlor either four or five times. Both she and Lucy were present each time and always denied him service. After rejecting him, he would leave the business, stand outside the window and point fingers toward them.
On the day of Aug. 21, 2018, the owner said she worked from 10 am to 1 pm. Lucy began her shift around 11 am or 12 pm. When the owner left, Lucy was the only one working in the parlor. Around 4:30 pm that day, the owner received a phone call from Lucy notifying her that Mr. Sarwar had come into the parlor. This was the first time that Lucy had ever called about how to handle a client.
According to the phone call, Lucy had denied Mr. Sarwar service but he continued to wait there and refused to leave. The owner advised her to tell him that he needed an appointment. Mr. Sarwar still did not leave upon being told this. The owner was then asked by Lucy if she should give him a 30-minute massage to make him go away. She instructed Lucy not to do so, just before the phone call was disconnected.
The owner is set to continue her testimony on July 24, 2019, at 1:30 pm in Department 13.
Witnesses Continue to Testify in Massage Parlor Murder Trial
By Nathan Yanez
Wednesday’s afternoon session of Rohail Sarwar’s murder trial featured the continuation of witnesses from earlier in the day. Mr. Sarwar is charged with the murder of Junying Lu, a 51-year-old masseuse at Cottonwood Massage.
The defense continued the cross-examination of the owner of the Cottonwood Massage. The defense’s questions tried to clear up some of the timeline of events prior to the actual murder. In her testimony, the owner mentioned an incident where she was assaulted by the defendant after she refused a sexual favor in exchange for tips, and the defendant urinated on the masseuse table. In her first testimony earlier that day, the witnesses claimed that it was a different massage therapist that was involved in the incident and later in the cross-examination she said it was herself who was the victim of the incident. The defense questioned the owner on the quality of her memory and whether or not she has been using any medications. In her response, the owner mentioned that while she has trouble remembering specifics she remembers the incidents clearly. She also mentioned that since the murder she has been on anti-depressant medications and sleeping aids which can affect her memory.
The defense also questioned about the massage parlor and its operations. In her testimony, the owner revealed that she has only been in the U.S. for 10 years and in the Sacramento area for three to four years. At the time of the murder, the the massage parlor she was managing had been open for approximately less than two years. The owner went on to explain how employment at the establishment worked, saying that masseuses could make their own work schedules and that at the time there were around 10 regular masseuses working at the parlor. The defense questioned whether the owner has ever had to let someone go and for what reasons. In her response, she mentioned that could happen if an employee was very inconsistent in their schedule or she suspected had bad character. After some clarifying questions, the owner indicated that she would let go of employees who she suspected of using sexual favors in exchange for tips.
It was disclosed that in her less than two years as owner of the business she went back to China twice for about 40 days each time, leaving the masseuse employees working at the establishment without her.
The defense also asked questions about the hiring and licensing of masseuses, and the owner explained that she only hires masseuses who have their California state certfication. The defense also asked about the process of when a customer might request sexual favors. The owner explained that customers who do ask for sexual favors are instructed that they are only a massage establishment and that sometimes certain customers are blacklisted. This was the case for the defendant as he has come into the establishment previously asking for sexual favors, assaulted the owner herself, and urinated on the massage bed.
In the redirect the prosecution asked if Junying Lu had not been killed would the owner have reported the previous assaults. The owner said she wanted to but had no evidence.
The next witness called to the stand by the prosecution was the daughter of the victim. In the testimony, questions confirmed personal information about Junying Lu. The defense had no questions for the witness.
The final witness for the day was Detective Joshua Amoruso of the Woodland Police Department, and he described some video surveillance from outside Cottonwood Massage as well as evidence that was found in the search of Sarwar’s residence. In the video surveillance taken from several other businesses that surround Cottonwood Massage, the defendant can be seen leaving the massage parlor, going to a liquor store and then returning to the massage parlor. In the videos, it can be seen that the defendant is wearing sandals and a distinct red baseball cap. In his search of the defendant’s residence, Detective Amoruso found sandals that matched the video surveillance as well as a similar baseball cap in the bedroom of the defendant. The sandals were found to have reddish-brown stains that are consistent with dried blood. Also revealed were pictures of the defendant’s hands the day of his arrest, and on his middle finger there was a laceration.
Due to time restraints, the court ended the questioning of Detective Amoruso. The trial will resume with the rest of the detective’s testimony the following day, Thursday, July 25, 2019 at 8:30 am.