CHP chief's son on trial for rape, disappears

FRESNO, Calif.

/*Spencer Scarber*/ was facing a maximum of 112 years to life in prison if he was convicted and prosecutors had just finished making their case against him. In fact, the defense was taking over Wednesday and Scarber was supposed to testify. Instead, he vanished.

Homicide detectives flocked to the Squaw Valley home where the 20-year-old Scarber was reported missing. 36 miles away, a Fresno County courtroom sat empty, just as Scarber was set to testify in his own defense against a rape charge.

"It's very suspicious circumstances in light of the people just finishing their evidence, putting on all the witnesses that would tend to show someone's guilt," said ABC-30 legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Capozzi says it's more common than you might think for defendants who are out on bond to try and run after hearing the case against them. But Spencer Scarber isn't your average defendant. His father is an assistant chief in the California Highway Patrol's Central Division, and the division chief also responded to the house.

/*Kyle Scarber*/ reported his son missing at about 5 a.m., telling deputies he'd last seen Spencer at 1:30 a.m. The father told detectives he discovered blood in a driveway, as well as a set of crutches his son had been using.

The sheriff's office is treating Spencer Scarber as an at-risk missing person. But Scarber stands accused of breaking into a neighbor's home last July and raping a 35-year-old woman. His family posted a $385,000 bail in June, but two months later, he was arrested again on a new accusation that he had sexual relations with a minor. His family posted a $750,000 bail soon after and he'd attended every day of his trial over the last two weeks. But Capozzi says it's possible Scarber decided the evidence against him was too strong.

"He may feel it's hopeless to even try to fight the case, 'Let's just get out of town and leave,' and then somehow fake your death," he said.

Judge Edward Sarkisian, Jr. forfeited Scarber's bail Wednesday afternoon. The jury in the case is now on call, but Capozzi says the case could be declared a mistrial if Scarber isn't found within a couple days.

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