When asked in court Friday why he struck an unarmed, 5-foot-2 woman on the head with a crowbar, last June, Michael Lynn Ray said he didn't know. And he couldn't remember how many drugs or how many drinks he'd had that night.
But the horror and brutality of the incident is forever etched in the mind of his victim, a 20-year-old Chantilly woman. Testifying at Ray's sentencing in Fairfax County Circuit Court, she said, "I will never forget the cruel words he said before he hit me, or the pain I felt as I was lying on the ground with blood running down my face."
Judge Dennis Smith was also outraged. "This was a thoughtless and violent act," he told Ray. "You didn't think about the consequences, but you did intend to do violence." He then sentenced Ray, 19, of 8917 Little River Turnpike in Annandale, to six years in prison for aggravated malicious wounding.
The incident occurred in the early morning hours of June 29 at the Franklin Farm home of 1999 Chantilly High grad Rick Loughery. He'd invited 15-20 close friends, ages 20-21 — including the Chantilly woman (whom Centre View is not identifying because she's a victim) — for a get-together.
But shortly after midnight, about five people, ages 17-20, tried to crash the party. Loughery said they walked straight into a bedroom, without speaking to anyone there. And when asked to leave, they became belligerent and shoving started.
They finally left, but returned with reinforcements, around 4 a.m. — when only a handful of people remained at Loughery's, helping him clean up. The Chantilly woman, a Brookfield resident, noticed a caravan of vehicles approaching the home and alerted the others. Soon, at least 10 people — most of the men wielding baseball bats — were standing in the front yard.
Loughery called 911, but police didn't arrive until after the damage was done. A male friend of Loughery's, 21 (also not being identified since he, too, was a victim), went outside and told the intruders to leave, but he was soon overpowered.
The assailants beat him viciously with a bat, knocking him to the ground and then kicking him. Although the petite Chantilly woman was no match for them, she couldn't watch the attack without trying to help the male victim.
But when she intervened, they turned her wrath on her, and one of them — later identified as Ray — struck her hard on the left side of her forehead, just above her eye.
"[He] hit her with a crowbar and said, 'That's what you get, you #@#&*!'" said Loughery, who witnessed the attack. "Then they fled in their cars. We were concerned that [the male victim] was dead, because he was unconscious, and [the female victim's] hair was soaked with blood."
Testifying Friday, the woman explained, "I got injured while trying to save my friend's life. But if I hadn't helped [him], he might not be alive today."
When questioned by Det. Steve Shillingford after the incident, Ray initially denied being there. But after witnesses fingered him, he admitted striking the woman with a crowbar.
Police arrested him July 9, charging him with aggravated malicious wounding because her medical problems may well be long-term. She sustained a bruised brain and internal bleeding and was hospitalized four days.
She also missed part of her senior year at JMU because the injury caused difficulty in focusing when she read, plus painful headaches. The male victim suffered a mild concussion; no one was charged in his assault because police couldn't sort out exactly who struck him.
On Oct. 30, Ray pleaded guilty, returning Friday for sentencing. The Brookfield woman took the stand first, describing the effects of her brutal attack. By hurting her, she said, Ray also hurt her family.
"My loved ones watched the pain I was in, and they were hurt, too, seeing me struggle so much," she said. Still under a physician's care, she takes medication and suffers from severe, post-traumatic migraines. Often, she said, "Instead of going out with my friends, I have to lie in the dark in my room until the headache passes."
Defense attorney Ronald Lynch had Sam Gray, a clinician and substance-abuse expert, testify on Ray's behalf. He'd done a mental-health/substance-abuse evaluation on Ray in October. He said Ray's mother had died, he grew up without knowing his father and his grandparents raised him.
Gray said Ray started drinking alcohol and taking marijuana at age 13-14, graduating to ecstasy, cocaine and opiates by 17. "By 18, it escalated out of control to daily use of alcohol and marijuana," said Gray, adding that Ray drank beer and used ecstasy and cocaine "probably on a weekly basis."
Before attacking the young woman, said Gray, Ray and the other assailants were drinking at the Wellesley Inn in Fairfax. "He said he'd had at least 15-16 beers and three shots of hard liquor, plus marijuana and other drugs," said Gray. "He thought he might have also done cocaine, but he couldn't remember."
Gray said the alcohol probably contributed to Ray's "aggressive behavior" that night, affecting his decisions and removing inhibitions. "He needs long-term, residential treatment, or he'll have a repeat offense, down the road," said Gray. However, he noted that alcohol hadn't adversely affected Ray's grades in high school and that his grandparents "gave him everything they could and more."
Next Ray testified, apologizing for the pain he'd inflicted upon the victim and her family. "I'm truly sorry for what happened," he said. "If I was sober, I wouldn't have done it." He said three of the party crashers had come back saying they'd been punched, so that's why they returned with weapons. Ray said he'd found the crowbar in the hotel parking lot.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Toni Fay said the victim thought she'd be safe in her community, never dreaming armed strangers would assault her. "This type of behavior is what we fear in our neighborhoods — that some crazed lunatic on drugs or alcohol will take revenge on us for something we didn't do," she said.
Fay noted that, in her victim-impact statement, the female wrote, "Only a coward would hit an unarmed girl with a crowbar." Said Fay: "She's not even 100 pounds — he could have pushed her out of the way. This is senseless, random violence. There's no doubt that he needs treatment, but he needs prison first. She's going to have to live with it, physically; he can't just come in here and say, 'God, I'm sorry — the alcohol really messed me up.'"
Fay then urged Judge Smith to punish Ray severely "so everyone will know you just can't do these kinds of things." Lynch said what happened was tragic, but his client had no criminal record and had accepted responsibility for his actions and admitted he needs help for his alcoholism.
However, Smith replied that, besides addressing Ray's rehabilitation, his sentence must also be a deterrent to others. "I've been on the bench eight years, and I've had three murder cases involving the use of a baseball bat," he told Ray. "But for, perhaps, the twist of a head or an inch, you could be standing here on a murder charge."
The judge was also troubled by Ray's statement, that night, about "wanting to do violence to women." Said Smith: "You could do violence again, and this cries out for punishment. There needs to be a substantial period of incarceration."
He then sentenced Ray to 11 years in prison, suspending five, and placing him on four years probation upon release. He also ordered him a drug and mental-health evaluation and anger-management treatment. "The only reason it's only six years is because you have no prior criminal record," he told Ray. "This is a horrendous act that cannot be tolerated in society."
Afterward, the victim — who'll graduate from JMU in May — expressed surprise that Ray's sentence was so long. Her mother liked Fay's arguments and was glad Smith "wanted to send a message." Her father was pleased that Ray will be incarcerated "because it's been a pretty traumatic period for the family. Like the judge said, a twist of the head and she could have been dead. We're just thankful that she's here — we can get past this now."
Added Loughery: "You have to be culpable for the things you do. [The victim] was a hero. She saved a life, and she deserves a lot of credit for having the courage to follow this through. I admire her and her strength — she's the polar opposite of the people who did this to her."