It wasn't easy for the victim of a brutal abduction and rape to relive the most horrific night of her life, in court this summer, when testifying against her attacker. But she did and, at the end of his trial, the jury found Rodrico Turner of Centreville guilty and recommended he serve 90 years in prison.
LAST FRIDAY, before he was sentenced in Fairfax County Circuit Court, the woman had to summon all her courage once more and tell the judge how her assailant's actions had affected her.
"I think about it all the time in my nightmares," she said. "I know how close I came to being gone from this earth. I know he wanted to kill me — and I know he would, if he got the chance again. This is something I'll always have with me."
Both attorneys then presented their arguments and, when they were done, Judge Jane Roush imposed the jury's full sentence of 90 years in prison. And as he had throughout his trial, Turner showed no emotion.
The crimes occurred in the early morning hours of July 27, 2003. Known as "Rico," Turner, now 34, lived in the Fair Lakes Glen community, and met the woman, then 32, a few hours earlier at O'Toole's Roadhouse Restaurant in Centreville. (Centre View is not identifying her since she is a victim).
He didn't have a car, so he asked if she'd drop him off at his house. She had plans with friends later, but agreed, since he said he lived nearby. The woman asked him for directions and, since she lives in Fauquier County, she was unaware that he was leading her to a dark and deserted construction site where Centreville's Summit Street dead-ended in a wooded area.
There, Turner asked the blonde woman to stop the car for a minute so he could ask her something. He still hadn't told her exactly where he lived, so she couldn't just leave him, so she put the car in park and listened to what he had to say. Then her world turned upside down.
"He said, 'I have this fantasy,' [and] he put his hand on the gearshift [not letting me put the car into 'drive']," she testified during his trial. He then brandished a box cutter and threatened to kill her if she didn't have sex with him. The blade was out, said the woman. "He said, 'If you don't do what I say, I'm gonna cut your throat,'" she said. "I was very frightened. I believed him — he meant it."
She grabbed for the weapon, but Turner slashed her hand. And when she tried to run away, 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 viciously raped and sodomized her.
AFTERWARD, thinking he'd gotten what he wanted and would go away now, the woman got up. Instead, continuing the terror, he told her she was going to be his "hostage for the night."
Unable to bear the thought of being violated again, she walked toward her car, desperately hoping to escape. But Turner was too strong for her. He pulled her out of the vehicle, tried to choke her, punched her in the face over and over again and kicked her in the jaw. Then he drove off in her car with her purse, wallet and I.D.
Fortunately, though, help was on the way. Robert and Linda Paddock — who'd just moved into their new home across the cul-de-sac from the crime scene — came to the hysterical and battered woman's aid. Her ongoing, anguished screams had woken Robert Paddock from sleep, and he went outside to investigate.
Seeing the woman — hysterical, face bloody and naked from the waist down — he took her into his house where he and his wife tended to her and called the police. She was then taken to a hospital for a sexual-assault exam and treatment of her injuries.
She told police her assailant was a light-skinned black man with green eyes and the word "Rico" tattooed on the left side of his neck. Police arrested Turner on July 29, 2003, charging him with rape, two counts of forcible sodomy, abduction with intent to defile, malicious wounding and robbery.
Nearly a year passed before he came to trial. And when the three-day event concluded, a jury of eight men and four women deliberated 8 1/2 hours and, on July 2, 2004, found him guilty on all counts, except for one of the sodomy charges.
During the sentencing phase, the next morning, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Julie Mitchell, prosecuting the case, told the jurors of Turner's previous criminal record. Most recently, on Nov. 10, 1993 in Albemarle County Circuit Court, he was convicted of robbery.
In the city of Charlottesville Circuit Court, he was also found guilty of four other crimes. On June 29, 1989, he was convicted of burglary, grand larceny auto and grand larceny. Eight days later, he was convicted of cocaine distribution. Altogether, he served some 13 years in prison for all these offenses.
After deliberating 2 1/2 hours, on July 3 the jury recommended Turner serve 90 years in prison, as follows: Abduction, 20 years; rape, 25 years; sodomy, 20 years; malicious wounding, 20 years; and robbery, five years — for 90 years total.
HE RETURNED to court last Friday, Sept. 17, for sentencing. The proceedings began with the victim's testimony about the impact these crimes have had on her life.
"This is very difficult for me to be here today," she said. "This whole year's been difficult for me and my family, but I want to do this for myself, my family and my community. It's been a very stressful time for me — and I thank God every day that I'm here and am able to share my life with my family and friends."
She said she still has scars on her knees from being dragged on the ground and has to be careful about what she wears so they won't show. And she's now wary about forming relationships with others.
"It's changed the way I view people," she explained. "I'm usually a trusting and helpful person, but that's changed. I've lost a little of that."
Choking back tears, she told Judge Roush she returned to court Friday to testify so that someone like Turner "cannot hurt anyone anymore. He had no respect for me or my life. He had a choice, and he chose evil. I ask why did I deserve that? Why does anyone deserve that? I was shown no mercy. I'm sorry my family has to be here for this; I love them very much."
On Turner's behalf, defense attorney Whitney Minter called the Rev. James Anderson, pastor of Bull Run Baptist Church in Manassas. He said Turner attended a few services there last year and, if he attended church there regularly in the future, he'd be willing to counsel him.
Minter said Turner's father mentally abused him and once shot him in the leg "for what he perceived was a flirtation with his [father's] girlfriend." And she said his "terrible childhood — with a lack of guidance and any inspiration — led him to a life of crime. He had no positive or motivational input in his life, whatsoever."
She then asked Roush to sentence him to 40 years in prison — the minimum sentence for each charge. But Mitchell said he deserved the punishment the jury recommended.
"This defendant brutally raped, sodomized, beat, choked and dragged the victim," she said. "She was trying to do a good deed, and this was how he repaid her. [The victim] is a heroine for enduring that night and the aftermath of the trial — telling the horrific details to a courtroom full of mostly strangers."
MITCHELL CALLED Turner's actions "inhumanely brutal" and noted the physical and mental scars the woman still bears because of him.
"During the sentencing hearing, after learning about his past convictions, the jury wanted to know if the court would shorten any of its recommended sentences," she said. "And the court said to assume they would run consecutively and nothing would be suspended."
Said Mitchell: "After hearing all the testimony and evidence presented over the course of the trial, the jury's sentence recommendation of 90 years was a most deliberate verdict, and there are no valid reasons to deviate from it."
Emphasizing that Turner's previous incarceration seemed to have no effect in deterring him from committing illegal acts, she said his crimes instead increased in severity, over time. "Nearly five months after serving 10 years for robbery, he commits this crime — his most violent ever," said the prosecutor. "The only way to protect the community from him is to incapacitate him."
Saying Turner showed "the epitome of disregard for human life" and "refuses to be rehabilitated," Mitchell addressed Roush directly. "Your Honor, there's nothing you can do to restore the victim to wholeness, but the court can do something to prevent him from doing this to anyone else," she said. "He showed her no mercy, and he deserves no mercy from this court."
Mitchell said the facts of the case "cry out" for a sentence equal to life imprisonment: "The jury recommended 90 years, and I ask the court to impose every year, every day of that sentence."
Before sentencing, Turner declined to speak on his behalf, and Roush then carried out the jury's wishes. She said the victim was "lucky to be here," thanks to the Centreville couple who came to her aid. "I think the jury was fair-minded; they did acquit you of one charge," she told Turner. "I do believe [their] sentences are appropriate."
Afterward, outside the courtroom, the woman's father said "justice was served" and he was pleased with how things turned out. He also thanked police Det. John Kelly, his fellow officers and everyone in the county's Victim Services unit who helped his daughter through the whole legal ordeal.
"I THINK the verdict was a message that people aren't going to get away with these heinous crimes," he said. "I'm just grateful that she's alive and is with us today. [Turner] showed no remorse; the judge made the proper call."
Glad the case was finally over, the victim's mother said how proud she was of her daughter. "I don't know if I could have done [what she did in court]," she said. "She's a very strong girl."
Also thanking Kelly, Victim Services, the court, Mitchell and the jury for their help, the victim said now she can finally have some closure. As for Turner's upbringing, she said, "No one's childhood is easy, but hard times are no excuse [to commit crimes]. Life is hard, but we're all given a choice. He had an opportunity to turn his life around, and he didn't. Now he'll get to feel what it's like to have your freedom taken away, like mine was that night. I have to live with this, the rest of my life."