A veteran Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department detective was charged last week with tying up and raping a 14-year-old girl whose case he was investigating. The arrest of Neil Kimball, a seasoned sex-crimes investigator, sent shockwaves through the law-enforcement community—especially when it was revealed that he had already been accused of sexual misconduct years earlier.
But the allegations didn’t surprise Sara Abusheikh, a Los Angeles-based fashion designer who told The Daily Beast she tried to warn authorities about “creepy” Kimball four years ago. The detective assigned to investigate her sexual assault case repeatedly crossed the line, she said—making flirtatious comments, accusing her of liking her alleged assailant, and even encouraging her to go back to see him.
When she reported Kimball’s behavior in 2014—three years before he allegedly raped his underage victim—she says nothing was done.
“It was like trying to complain to a brick wall,” Abusheikh said. “It just makes you think, ‘How many other women are there that tried to complain about this guy?’”
Kimball, a 20-year veteran of the sheriff’s department, spent the last five years in the Special Victims Unit—a division that has investigated #MeToo fixture Asia Argento, former Disney executive Jon Heely, and other high-profile cases. According to the sheriff’s department, Kimball served as a potential witness in nearly 1,000 criminal cases over the course of his career.
The detective was arrested Nov. 16, after a tip from the public sparked an internal sheriff’s department investigation. The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office charged Kimball with forcible rape and dissuading a witness from testifying last month. The sheriff's department suspended him with pay.
The department did not respond to questions about Abusheikh’s claims or the other allegation of sexual assault pre-dating Kimball’s arrest.
“When allegations of criminal activity involve law enforcement, we have systems in place to root out misconduct within the organization, as well as any Department member who chooses to violate the law and public trust,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
Kimball has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His attorney did not respond to a request for comment, and the detective did not answer an email sent to him in jail.
Abusheikh first met Kimball on June 18, 2014—more than a week after she first told sheriff’s deputies that an acquaintance had coerced her into non-consensual sexual acts during an encounter at his apartment.
From the start, Abusheikh said, the detective seemed dismissive, repeatedly reminding her she had little evidence and no witnesses. She said he eventually suggested they attempt a pretext phone call—an evidence-gathering tactic in which she would call and engage the suspect in hopes of extracting a confession.
But within minutes of arriving in Kimball’s car for the call, Abusheikh said, she began to feel something was wrong. The detective instantly struck a casual, almost flirtatious tone, she said, asking her if she ever used drugs. When she admitted she'd smoked weed to calm her nerves, Abusheikh said, Kimball repeatedly suggested that she wanted to take him home to get him high.
Confused and hoping to head off any attempts to move to her apartment, Abusheikh said she eventually offered to bring the detective some marijuana. He declined.
After the pretext call, Abusheikh said, Kimball told her the alleged assault sounded more like a misunderstanding. He told her the suspect seemed like a “good guy,” and suggested she liked him because of his British accent, she recalled. When the suspect invited her to come over again and cuddle, she said, Kimball suggested they have sex once more, “gently."
Abusheikh said she pressed Kimball, reminding him the suspect had allegedly hit her across the face so hard her cheek swelled.
“That’s true,” Kimball responded, according to her account. He added suggestively: “But what if he’d slapped you somewhere else?”
In a 2015 email to Daniel Perlman, a lawyer she hired to help with the rape case, Abusheikh expressed shock at Kimball’s remark. “I do not know what this detective’s issue is, but this is all really serious and I agree with [rape treatment center] that his conduct is unacceptable,” she wrote.
Her good friend Keri Kukral told The Daily Beast she remembered Abusheikh talking about the pretext call, and how Kimball had called her assailant a “good guy” and made comments about smoking weed together. “I remember her saying that he would text her and call her and really overstep the lines and say inappropriate things,” Kukral said.
In the weeks after the pretext call, Abusheikh said the suspect began calling her repeatedly. After she applied for a restraining order, his attorney started calling her, too. Abusheikh said she reached out to Kimball numerous times to express her anxiety about the calls. In text messages reviewed by The Daily Beast, the detective told her, “I think your [sic] just paranoid lol stop smoking weed lol. Isn’t that a side effect?”
"It was just so creepy,” Abusheikh said. “He never once talked to me like I was a rape victim in a case he was assigned to investigate.”
What Abusheikh didn’t know was that Kimball had been reported for sexual assault himself years earlier.
In 2008, a woman told investigators that Kimball and his partner had stopped her and her friends outside a Travel Inn. It’s unclear from the DA’s report why the officers stopped the group, but the woman—whose identity was redacted—told investigators that Kimball quickly became flirtatious. When several members of the party asked to use the restroom, the woman told investigators, Kimball followed them to the hotel room and told them to get into the jacuzzi.
According to the DA’s report, Kimball allegedly went to the restroom and was in there so long that the woman went to check on him. That’s when, she told investigators, he grabbed her butt in his hands and tried to force her to touch his penis. She said she was able to pull away, and Kimball left soon after.
The woman told investigators she did not initially file a report for fear of police retaliation, but that her grandmother convinced her to come forward.
The DA declined to press charges, citing an absence of corroborating evidence as well as the woman’s “inconsistent statements about what occurred in the bathroom” and her six-month delay in reporting the crime.
The sheriff’s department did not respond to questions about why Kimball was promoted to the special victims unit years after the allegation. In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, a department spokesperson reiterated that the DA had declined to prosecute.
“The department will conduct a review of the internal process related to Det. Kimball’s assignment at Special Victims Bureau,” the spokesperson added.
Abusheikh says the sheriff’s department received another warning about Kimball in 2014, when she called to report him herself.
After speaking with several attorneys who were concerned by Kimball’s behavior, Abusheikh said she called the West Hollywood branch to complain. She said she was transferred to a supervisor, whom she told about Kimball’s marijuana comments. She was surprised when he defended them as routine.
When she insisted that the comments had made her uncomfortable, Abusheikh said, the supervisor told her he would discuss the matter with Kimball. She said he did not offer to let her submit a formal complaint or request a new detective.
Minutes later, Abusheikh said, Kimball called. “Somebody from my office told me you needed to get ahold of me, so I’m calling you back,” Kimball can be heard saying in a voicemail she provided.
Abusheikh said she broke down crying that day in front of Mark Khalaf, one of the attorneys helping her obtain a restraining order. Khalaf told The Daily Beast he remembered the incident well, and said he even called Kimball afterwards to complain about his behavior.
Kimball, he recalled, said he was just trying to determine if Abusheikh was credible.
“It was so inappropriate what he was telling me,” Khalaf said. “I’d never seen it in my career. Not as a law enforcement officer, not at the DA’s [office]—I’d never seen it.”
Abusheikh said she cut off contact with Kimball shortly after that. She obtained a restraining order and continued going to weekly appointments at the rape crisis center. But several months later, in May of 2015, she told a crisis center advocate that she was ready to revisit her criminal case.
The advocate reached out to the sheriff’s department about setting up a meeting with the DA, emails provided to The Daily Beast show. Kimball responded that the case was closed. He told the advocate he had offered Abusheikh a meeting with the DA earlier and that she had declined—something Abusheikh says she never did.
The advocate ultimately secured a meeting with deputy DA Linda Loftfield in August, and requested Kimball not attend. But one of the first things Loftfield said at the meeting, according to Abusheikh’s account, was that Kimball was a “fine detective.”
Reached by the Daily Beast for comment, Loftfield—who said she had not heard about the latest charges against Kimball—did not dispute Abusheikh’s account.
“My motivation was to share with her that although she felt like he wasn’t listening to her, that my experience with him was that he was a good detective,” Loftfield said.
Loftfield said she could not recall if she had heard about Abusheikh’s other complaints, including that Kimball suggested they smoke weed together and that she go back to the suspect. But even if she had heard these complaints, Loftfield said, that would not be an issue for her.
“That would not be what I would be focusing on,” Loftfield said. “I was doing a job of evaluating whether I should file felony charges.”
The DA’s office declined to prosecute Abusheikh’s case, writing that there was “insufficient evidence to prove [beyond reasonable doubt] that a crime occurred.”
Abusheikh said she is currently focused on therapy and healing, but is still weighing her legal options. Her experience with Kimball and his superiors felt like “a huge betrayal,” she said.
“You’re only in this guy’s presence because you’ve already been endangered, but we're not safe with him either,” she said. “And we’re trying to talk about that, and none of these adults who aren't experiencing acute stress are listening.”
According to divorce proceedings filed by his wife earlier this year, Kimball had been living in a 30-foot trailer in Malibu, California, for at least six months before his arrest. The couple is engaged in a lengthy custody dispute over their four children, who live with their mother outside of Los Angeles.
Kimball’s wife reported he averaged $12,500 per month at the sheriff’s department, which he supplemented by moonlighting as a security guard at local restaurants. He has been out on disability twice since 2016, according to divorce and sheriff’s records.
The detective currently faces two felony charges of forcible rape and dissuading a witness by force or threat, and a “special circumstance” allegation that the victim was bound, according to the Los Angeles Times. If convicted, he faces 19 years to life in prison.
The sheriff’s department is reportedly reviewing Kimball’s earlier cases for possible additional victims. The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs declined to comment.
When she first heard about the rape charge, Abusheikh says she was devastated. She was "heartbroken," she added, because the alleged victim was so young.
“And I’m pissed," she said, "because it feels like women not being listened to over and over again.”