In her opening statement Monday to the jury hearing the rape case against a Centreville man, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell called the offense a "premeditated, brutal attack on a 32-year-old woman."
And when she testifies, said Mitchell, "She'll tell you the painful details of the most horrific hour of her life ... At the close of evidence, there'll be no reasonable doubt that he did this; that he used threats, force and intimidation; and that he did this against her will. And I'll ask you to find him guilty."
The defendant is Rodrico "Rico" Eric Turner, 33, of 5507 Bent Maple Lane in the Fair Lakes Glen community. Besides rape, he's charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, abduction with intent to defile, malicious wounding and robbery. If convicted, he could receive as much as four life terms in prison.
He has pleaded not guilty, and defense attorney Whitney Minter asked the jury of eight men and four women to "listen with an open mind." After three days of testimony and evidence, Turner's trial in Fairfax County Circuit Court went to the jury Wednesday, at 3 p.m. At press time, the jurors were still deliberating his guilt or innocence on each of the six charges — and their verdict must be unanimous.
The incident occurred nearly a year ago, in the early morning hours of July 27, on a dark and deserted cul-de-sac where Centreville's Summit Street dead-ended in a wooded area. There, said Mitchell, Turner allegedly attacked and sexually violated a Fauquier County woman.
The blonde victim (whose name Centre View is not revealing, to protect her identity) took the stand Monday and spoke in a soft, halting voice as she recounted what happened. She'd gone to O'Toole's Roadhouse Restaurant in Centreville, Saturday, July 26, planning to meet her sister and brother there.
"Did you have any alcoholic beverages to drink before going there?" asked Mitchell. "No," replied the woman, who said she wore a white shirt over a tan tank-top and jeans. "Did your jeans have any holes in them?" asked Mitchell. Again, she answered, "No."
She reached O'Toole's around 10:40 p.m., but her siblings couldn't make it, so she visited with two acquaintances, Ricky and Shane, who introduced her to Turner. "Was there anything noticeable about him?" asked Mitchell. "He had a tattoo, 'Rico,' on the left [side of his] neck," said the woman.
They talked about playing pool at Ricky's house and, at closing time, everyone went outside. "How many drinks had you had while there?" asked Mitchell. "Two Coronas [beers]," replied the woman. She said they talked in the parking lot, 30-40 minutes, waiting for a waitress to finish work and join them for pool.
"I asked Rico how he got there, and he said he lived close by and walked," said the woman. "He asked me for a ride, and I felt sorry for him, so I said yes. Shane said I should call him for directions to his townhouse in Gainesville. He told me to get rid of Rico."
Driving away in her white, 1995 Mustang, she asked Turner how to reach his house and he told her to cross Route 29. "Were you familiar with those streets back there?" asked Mitchell. "No," said the woman. "I went to the end of this road, and there was a cul-de-sac. I kept asking him where he lived so I could drop him off, and he didn't answer."
"He asked me, 'Can you stop here, a minute?'" she said. "I asked, 'What's wrong? Where do you live? I need to take you home; it's getting late.' The car was stopped, in park, because he said he wanted to ask me something. He said, 'I have this fantasy.' I said, 'What are you talking about?' He wouldn't answer. He put his hand on the gearshift [not letting me put the car into 'drive']."
Then, said the woman, "He said, 'No, you're gonna do this, or I'm gonna kill you.' He took his hand off the gearshift, and he had a box cutter in his left hand, resting on his leg, and the blade was out. He said, 'If you don't do what I say, I'm gonna cut your throat.' I was very frightened. I was trying to think [what to do]. I believed him — he meant it."
She complied when he told her to turn off the lights because, she said, "I didn't want to make him any angrier; I was trying to reason with him. I was thinking, 'If I get the box cutter away from him, I'd have a chance.' I grabbed at it with my right hand, and my hand got cut because we were fighting and struggling. It was starting to bleed."
Then, she said, Turner ordered her out of the car, again threatening to cut her throat. "I tried to run; he caught up to me and grabbed me," she said. "He pulled me back behind the car. I was screaming, yelling, telling him, 'No,' saying, 'Help me!' One of my shoes came off; I was struggling. He said, 'If you don't do this, I'm gonna kill you.' I fell down [and] he drug me over to the grassy area, behind my car."
"What about houses, trees and lighting?" asked Mitchell. "There were lots of trees, the houses weren't close and there were just a few street lights," answered the woman. "It was dark — nighttime."
She said Turner kept threatening to kill her if she didn't comply so, she explained, "I figured I'd do what he said to save my life." Then, she said, he placed her on her back and removed her jeans and underwear.
"My hands were both tied above my head [with my jeans]," said the woman. "I tried to get them free, but couldn't. I remember looking down and seeing the box cutter on my abdomen." She said Turner sodomized her, but she figured that appeasing him was her "best chance" for survival.
Next, she said, he put on a condom and, despite her protests, he raped her. Mentally, she said, "I was trying to put myself in another place so I wasn't there." She said he sodomized her again, but she figured he'd then leave her alone. She started getting up but, she said, "He told me I was gonna be his hostage for the night and he could do what he wanted with me."
Her car engine was still running and the driver's-side door was open, so she walked toward it. "He told me to get in the trunk, and I said no," said the woman. "I tried to run, and he dragged me on the pavement. I fell down, on my knees. I was screaming, the whole time, 'Stop, someone help me.'" Then, she said, Turner dragged her back to the grass and started choking her.
"I was losing breath, and I thought, 'I'm gonna die tonight,'" she said. She managed to push him off, reach her car and hit the horn. But, she said, he pulled her out to the pavement by her arms and hair. She tried reaching the driveway of the nearest house but, she said, "Then came a flurry of punches — right, left, nonstop — to my face, nose, head. I got knocked down; when I was on the ground, he kicked me in my face, on my left jaw."
Then, she said, Turner drove off in her car with her purse, phone, wallet and I.D., and she ran to the nearest house for help. She was concerned because her and her sister's addresses were in her purse and "I was afraid he'd come get me."
Robert Paddock, whose house she'd tried to reach, testified that her "terrified, ongoing, agonized screams" woke him up and, when he went outside to investigate, she ran to him. He took her inside to his wife and they called police. "She was hysterical, frightened," he said. "She'd been struck in the face and had a nasty wound near one of her eyes and contusions on her knees."
"She had blood all over her face, and her legs were scraped," added his wife Linda. "She had nothing on from the waist down, and she was upset and crying."
Police Det. Matthew Anderson testified that, he responded to the crime scene where he found the victim's shoes, underwear, bent toe-ring and bracelet with the clasp open, as well as a condom wrapper and red drops leading from that site to the cul-de-sac. He also found the victim's jeans on the grass — "turned inside-out, with knots tied in them" — and a condom in the vehicle.
Then came testimony from sexual assault nurse examiners, Det. John Kelly of the Sex Crimes Unit — who was the lead detective in the case and arrested Turner along with Det. Shawn Perkins of the same unit. Perkins testified that he obtained two pair of box cutters from Turner's home. DNA and fingerprint experts also testified, as did an expert in forensic nursing, who spoke on behalf of the defense.
In her closing argument, Wednesday afternoon, Minter said the victim kept changing her story and that it didn't make sense: "She grabs for the box cutter and fights with this individual, instead of running. The victim tells you she was fighting and scratching, but Turner had absolutely no injuries and the victim had no foreign DNA under her nails."
Minter said the prosecution didn't prove any intent to steal, on Turner's part, nor proof that he intended to "maim, disfigure, wound or kill" the victim — both necessary for robbery and malicious-wounding convictions.
She contended that the sexual activity was consensual, and Turner got angry and assaulted the victim when she halted it. "When he stands to put on a condom, she doesn't run; she stays there," said Minter. "[The victim made] a false report. The commonwealth hasn't proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and I ask you to find Mr. Turner not guilty."
But Mitchell countered that it's been 11 months since the incident, and the jurors should be more concerned if every word of the victim's testimony was consistent and unchanged, "as in a script." Besides, she said, "The victim testified that she made a choice to not struggle and to preserve her life. Afterward, when she resisted and tried to get away, she was beaten. Look at the totality of the evidence in this case — there's nothing that indicates consent."
Furthermore, said Mitchell, police found the woman's jeans knotted up, and holes were made in them and her hands were bound with them before anything sexual transpired. The struggle with the box cutter also happened before the sexual activity, she said.
Therefore, she told the jury, "The violence that preceded the sex acts makes consent untenable in this case. Common sense and the evidence [should lead you to] find him guilty."