After convicting Rodrico Turner for rape and other crimes, last week, the jury of eight men and four women began deliberating his punishment. But before they did, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell had a few words for them.
"You cannot take away what he did to the victim," she said. "You can make sure he doesn't have the chance to do this — or something worse — to anyone else."
And when the jurors returned to court, Friday afternoon, they did just that. For the five crimes for which they convicted the Centreville man, they recommended he serve 90 years in prison.
Afterward, pleased with the outcome, the victim's father expressed relief that the trial was over and ended the way it did. "It's been an ordeal for all of us," he said. "Finally, we've got some closure."
Now 34, Turner, known as "Rico," lived in the Fair Lakes Glen community, and met the victim, then 32, late one night at O'Toole's Roadhouse Restaurant in Centreville. Since he didn't have a car, he asked if she'd drop him off at his house. She had plans with friends later, but agreed, since he said he lived close by.
A RESIDENT of Fauquier County, the woman (who Centre View is not identifying since she's a victim) asked him for directions, but had no idea he was leading her to a dark and all-but-deserted construction site on a dead-end road off of Centreville's Summit Street.
And there, in the early morning hours of July 27, 2003 — threatening to kill her if she didn't comply with his sexual demands — Turner brandished a box cutter, slashed her hand when she tried to grab it and prevented her from driving off. Then when she attempted to run, he caught up with her and dragged her to a grassy area behind her car.
Yanking off her jeans and underwear, he bound her hands above her head with her jeans and brutally raped and sodomized her. Afterward, thinking the worst was over and he'd leave her alone now, the woman got up. But Turner had other plans. Said the woman: "He told me I was gonna be his hostage for the night."
Terrified — and desperately trying to avoid being violated again — she walked toward her car, hoping to make a break for it. Instead, he dragged her out of it, tried to choke her, punched her in the face repeatedly and kicked her in the jaw. Then he drove off in her car with her purse, wallet and I.D.
Luckily, Robert and Linda Paddock — who'd just moved into their new house across the cul-de-sac from the crime scene — came to the hysterical and battered woman's aid. Her ongoing, anguished screams had woken him from sleep, and he went outside to investigate.
When he saw the victim — bleeding from her face and naked from the waist down — he took her inside his home where he and his wife tended to her and called the police. She was also taken to the hospital for a sexual-assault exam and treatment of her injuries.
Later, when she calmed down enough to talk to the police, she described her assailant as a light-skinned black man, 5 feet, 7 inches and 165 pounds, with green eyes and the word "Rico" tattooed on the left side of his neck.
Police arrested Turner on July 29, charging him with rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, abduction with intent to defile, malicious wounding and robbery. Throughout his three-day trial last week in Fairfax County Circuit Court, he remained unemotional and expressionless — except to glare at the victim after the verdicts were announced and she burst into tears.
DURING THE proceedings, police Det. Matthew Anderson testified that he found the victim's shoes, underwear, jewelry and knotted-up jeans at the crime scene, as well as a used condom on the floorboard of her car which was recovered nearby. He also saw the woman in the hospital and described the injuries she'd sustained to her face, neck, arms, hands, lower back, right hip, legs, toes and feet.
Lead Det. John Kelly also spoke with her, visited the crime scene, talked to people at O'Toole's to try to find "Rico" and later went to Turner's home on Bent Maple Drive and took him into custody. And William Reeves, a fingerprint examiner with the police department, testified that he positively identified a latent fingerprint from the victim's vehicle as being from Turner's left, middle finger.
Also taking the stand was forensic scientist Jennifer Gombos who received DNA samples from both Turner and the woman. After then compiling their DNA profiles, she testified that she "could not eliminate Mr. Turner and [the victim] as being possible co-contributors to the DNA profile on that condom [found in the victim's car]."
Out of earshot of the jury, defense attorney William Edwards asked Judge Jane Roush to strike some of the charges against his client. For example, he said, regarding the abduction charge, "The victim drove them, there, not Mr. Turner." However, prosecutor Mitchell countered that "ample evidence" existed that Turner detained the woman and prevented her from leaving.
"He put his hand on the gearshift and wouldn't let her proceed," said Mitchell. "Then he pulled a box cutter. He deprived her of her personal liberty — and his intent to defile was clear." Roush denied all of Edwards' motions to strike.
Before the jurors began their deliberations, last Wednesday afternoon, June 30, the judge read them instructions explaining what was required to find Turner guilty or not guilty of each of the offenses with which he was charged. Said Roush: "You are the judges of the facts, the credibility of the witnesses and the weight of the evidence."
Their verdicts on each charge had to be unanimous and, after deliberating for 8 1/2 hours, they told Roush they were able to agree on five of the charges, but not the sixth. She said she'd take what they had and, Thursday, July 1, at 5:15 p.m., they returned to court and declared Turner guilty of rape, one count of forcible sodomy, abduction with intent to defile, malicious wounding and robbery. Turner's other count of forcible sodomy was dropped.
COURT RECONVENED the next morning for the penalty phase of the trial. And now that Turner had been convicted, Mitchell could inform the jurors of his previous criminal record. Most recently, on Nov. 10, 1993 in Albemarle County Circuit Court, he was convicted of robbery.
He also was also found guilty of four other crimes in the city of Charlottesville Circuit Court. On June 29, 1989, he was convicted of burglary, grand larceny auto and grand larceny. Then on July 7 of that year, he was convicted of cocaine distribution. Altogether, he served some 13 years in prison for all of these offenses.
Next, Mitchell re-called the rape victim to the stand and asked her to describe how Turner's actions against her affected her life. "This last year has been really hard for me and my family — and this week's been hard, too," said the woman. "I was a victim that night, and then a victim coming in here," having to relive her night of terror for the jurors and convince them she was telling the truth.
Voice breaking, trying to hold back the tears, she said, "I was fighting for my life, and nobody was gonna take that away from me. The only thing I could think of was that I'd never see my family again. My main goal was to get in that car or that house — alone."
After the attack, she said, she was in "excruciating pain" in the hospital emergency room and couldn't walk for almost a week. She missed five weeks of work and eventually switched jobs (she's an administrative assistant). Explained the woman: "The people at my work were great, but you want to start over where nobody knows what happened to you."
She still has scars on her knees from being dragged on the ground, but even worse, she said, "I'm afraid to be alone with men. I feel like they're gonna start punching me — trying to kill me." Nonetheless, she's doing her best to be brave. "The emotional part will heal in time; my life will go on," she said. "I know I had a lot of angels with me that night, and they're here today, as well."
On Turner's behalf, the Rev. James Anderson, pastor of Bull Run Baptist Church in Manassas, said he's counseled Turner and would do so again upon his release from incarceration. Attorney Edwards also proffered testimony from Turner's lifelong friend Ralph Terry, stuck in traffic and unable to reach the court. Edwards said Terry would have testified that Turner's father was an alcoholic who mistreated him.
Mitchell told the jurors the sentencing ranges — generally, from five years to life — for each of Turner's offenses, and explained the purposes of punishment: Deterrence, incapacitation, retribution and rehabilitation.
SHE SAID deterrence deals with what sentence will make Turner less likey to re-offend. "He was obviously undeterred by the amount of prison time he received before, and the severity of his crimes increased," she said. "And it would send the message that violent rape won't be tolerated in Fairfax County."
Regarding incapacitation, Mitchell said Turner's proven that "nothing short of incarceration will prevent him from committing violent crimes — and it's the only way we can protect the community from him." Retribution, she said, involves paying back his debt to society "for the injury and pain he inflicted on the victim."
Finally, said Mitchell, "He's proven he cannot or will not be rehabilitated. There are few cases where a life sentence is appropriate — this is one of [them]."
Edwards argued for the minimum sentence the jurors could impose — 40 years — saying, "This is a serious crime, but a man can turn his life around. [Turner] still can do good and make a contribution to society."
However, in light of the defendant's record and most recent criminal activities, the jury disagreed. After deliberating 2 1/2 hours, it recommended the following sentences: Abduction, 20 years; rape, 25 years; sodomy, 20 years; malicious wounding, 20 years; and robbery, five years — for 90 years total. Sentencing is Sept. 17.
Outside the courtroom afterward, the victim said her ordeal gave her a new perspective on life: "You just cherish every day." And through it she met some "incredible people, including the Paddocks — who weren't afraid to get involved." Otherwise, she said, "I might not be here today."
She also praised Mitchell, the rescue workers and the entire county police department. "[Det.] John Kelly was my knight in shining armor — he worked so hard," she said. "And all the girls in the Victim Services unit helped me from start to finish. I'm very impressed with them — and that the citizens of Fairfax County spoke. My family and myself are happy with the outcome — that [Turner] can't hurt anybody else."
Added her sister: "I just hope the judge considers the jury's recommendations and makes sure he's punished for life for what he did to my sister." Her father said, "My daughter's lucky to be alive, considering her injuries." He, too, thanked the police and other county employees for all their help. "They're a credit to this county," he said. "They really cared."