Thursday, October 30, 2014

Victim says she’s still haunted by 2000 sex assault

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 3/13/2013

The victim of a 13-year-old sexual assault cold case in Ottawa told a packed courtroom Tuesday that she has thought a long time about what she would say to her attacker.

“Ever since Feb. 19, 2000, I always told myself that if I was afforded the opportunity to speak to my attacker face-to-face. I would do so,” the victim said in Franklin County District Court. “Now that this day has came 13 years and 21 days later, I am speechless.”

The victim of a 13-year-old sexual assault cold case in Ottawa told a packed courtroom Tuesday that she has thought a long time about what she would say to her attacker.

“Ever since Feb. 19, 2000, I always told myself that if I was afforded the opportunity to speak to my attacker face-to-face. I would do so,” the victim said in Franklin County District Court. “Now that this day has came 13 years and 21 days later, I am speechless.”

A 53-year-old former truck driver who was found guilty in October of sexually assaulting the then 16-year-old girl was sentenced Tuesday to more than 33 years in state prison on five charges in connection with the February 2000 attack.

The Herald does not identify crime victims.

Franklin County District Judge Eric W. Godderz imposed the standard sentence for each of the five charges in the case against Ralph E. Corey, but he ordered the sentences to run consecutively — not concurrently — because of the calculated nature of the crime and the fact Corey did not stop the attack when he had the opportunity to do so on more than one occasion, the judge said.

Stephen A. Hunting, Franklin County attorney, asked Judge Godderz to impose the maximum sentence on each charge — 421 months in total — because of the “cold, calculated” nature of the attack against a 16-year-old girl. Hunting noted Corey had a criminal history dating back to 1978 — with 20 convictions, including a felony for a sex-related crime from the early 1990s in Rhode Island and seven other felonies.

About the only break in Corey’s criminal history, Hunting said, was during stretches when Corey had been incarcerated for previous offenses.

On Oct. 22, 2012, a jury convicted Corey of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old Walmart Supercenter cashier on the night of Feb. 19, 2000, as she prepared to leave the employee parking lot on the north side of the building at 2101 S. Princeton St., Ottawa. Corey was convicted of two counts of aggravated sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping, one count of attempted rape and one count of making a criminal threat in connection with the incident.

Testimony from the trial indicated Corey forced the victim into the back seat of her car and drove her to two nearby parking lots, accounting for the count of aggravated kidnapping, the count of attempted rape and two counts of aggravated sexual assault. Throughout the 20- to 30-minute abduction, testimony indicated, Corey repeatedly threatened the victim, accounting for the fifth charge of making a criminal threat.

During her statement to the court Tuesday at Corey’s sentencing hearing, the now 29-year-old victim fought back tears as she told Judge Godderz that “right after my attack I had to go to counseling right up to the day I left for the Marine Corps.”

“The counseling helped me cope with the fact that someone violated me in a way that no young girl ever could imagine,” the victim said. “At the young at of 16, I was young, full of life, energetic, and an outgoing girl. But I had a lot of fears that I pushed away and tried not to have them run my life. So I joined the Marines right out of high school and a year later did a combat tour in Iraq.

“Sure that was scary, but I was more afraid of walking out into the dark to use the restroom and thinking to myself that my attacker was out there ready to get me 7,000 miles away, while my fellow Marines feared for their lives in a whole different way,” she said. “When I returned home, I tried to go back to as much of a normal life as any 20-year-old girl could.”    

The case had gone cold until DNA retrieved from the crime scene matched Corey’s DNA in a national database system as he was about to be released from an Arizona penitentiary on counterfeiting charges Nov. 8, 2010. Corey was interviewed by now-retired Ottawa police detective Rick Geist. Based on that interview and a DNA sample Geist collected, Corey later was arrested by Ottawa police officers June 17, 2011, and transported to the Franklin County Adult Detention Center, 305 S. Main St., where he has remained for the past 21 months.

During the past 13 years — before Corey’s DNA was linked to the crime — the victim told the judge she tried dating, but “I would push every guy away that wanted anything to do with me.”

 “I started to believe that I am broken and nobody would want me, but I had a good friend that was there for me and showed me that I was not broken,” the victim said. “I just had something horrible happen to me at a young age and we had to get past it together. Now that good friend is my husband.”

The victim said during her ninth and last year in the U.S. Marines she served as a sexual assault advocate for marines and sailors.

“That’s where I realized, I might have a list of fears a mile long but helping others through their attack made me feel better,” she said. “I am now going to school to become a nurse and want to specialize in forensic nursing to be a sexual assault nurse examiner and continue on helping others.”

The victim said every day she has to live in fear, even if it is from walking in a dark Walmart parking lot or walking down into her dark laundry room.

“I have to tell myself that nobody is there and nobody is going to get me,” she said. “I have to shut the blinds right at dusk because in my mind my attacker is out there watching my every move ... I wish I could go back in time and lock my door that night, but I can’t. This attack has made me the person I am today.”

The victim asked Judge Godderz to give Corey the maximum punishment so “that way he can never hurt anyone else again.”

John A. Boyd, Corey’s defense attorney, asked the judge for a downward departure in sentencing to a total sentence that would amount to about 10 years in prison. He cited the fact Corey was 53 years old, that some of his pervious convictions were as much as 30 years old, that he had stopped the attack and that he had family support. Boyd also asked that Corey’s sentences on the five counts run concurrently, not consecutively.

Godderz denied Boyd’s motion for downward departure and that the sentences run concurrently, noting that although some of the convictions were as much as 30 years old, there were 20 convictions, including numerous felonies — one for a sex-related crime.

He also said the attack had been calculated, with Corey, formerly of Arizona, realizing he could get back in his truck and head down I-35 with the chance he would never be connected to the crime.

“If he had not left a glove at the scene, and through the modern advances in science, he may never have been connected to this crime,” Godderz said. “This kind of attack is every child’s and every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Godderz said he received a letter of support from Corey’s daughter and noted the defendant’s age, but the judge said the fact that the defendant might not ever get out of prison was the consequence he faced when he committed the crimes.

Godderz sentenced Corey to 272 months for one count of aggravated kidnapping, 59 months for one count of attempted rape, 32 months for one count of aggravated sexual assault, 32 months for the second count of aggravated sexual assault and six months for one count of making a criminal threat.

The five counts add up to 401 months, or 33.4 years in state prison. Godderz said Corey could receive up to a 15 percent credit on the sentence for good behavior in prison.

The judge also told Corey he had the right to appeal both the conviction and the sentences. Corey declined his right to comment when given the opportunity to speak by Godderz before the sentencing. It was not clear Tuesday if he planned to appeal the conviction and sentencing.

Hunting said afterward he was pleased with the outcome of the sentencing, and he said justice had been served in the once-cold case.

He said he admired the victim and her family for “hanging in there through all these years.”

“I hope this will bring her some peace,” Hunting said of Corey’s long sentence.

The victim hugged her mother after the sentencing and had no comment at the time. But later, in a written statement, she thanked all the law enforcement officers and agencies that worked on the case, as well as the prosecutors with the Franklin County Attorney’s office and the “loving support” from her family.

“I am very thankful for everyone that worked so hard on my case and never gave up even when there were road blocks put in their way,” the victim said. “I feel comfort finally knowing who my attacker is after all these years. To know that he is going to spend a very long time in prison makes me feel at ease and reassures me that he is not going to be able to hurt anyone else again.

“I always said for years, I have this book (which is my attack) that was left open and it might be left open for the rest of my life,” she said Wednesday morning. “But yesterday, I finally got to hear the ending, and now that book is shut.”

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