Home » A Nirbhaya in America forces rapist to almost confess to sexual assault, attempted murder

A Nirbhaya in America forces rapist to almost confess to sexual assault, attempted murder

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Indian woman on an F1 visa was choked, sexually assaulted 10 years ago.

AB Wire

WASHINGTON, DC: An unidentified Indian woman, now 36, traveled from India to America for the second time in 10 years, last week: to testify in court against the man who 10 years ago ruined her life, dragged her into woods near her house, sexually assaulted her, almost killed her by choking her. Then 26, she quit her studies, and returned back to India.

The media chose not to name the victim from India, who showed tremendous courage in testifying in a Fairfax Country, Virginia court, the horror that she underwent a decade ago by Jesse Leroy Matthew Jr., who is the prime suspect in the deaths of two other women, and will probably be sentenced to life in prison soon.

Matthew, the 33-year-old Charlottesville man also faces a capital murder charge in the 2014 disappearance and death of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, reported the Washington Post. Police say that Matthew also has been linked forensically to the investigation into the killing of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington. No charges have been filed in that case.

In the case of the woman from India, Mathew entered an Alford plea on the third day of the trial last week after an expert testified that DNA found under one of the victim’s fingernails was highly likely to belong to Matthew.

In an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt, but he or she concedes that the prosecution has enough evidence to win a conviction.

“The court finds the evidence in this case is overwhelming,” Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge David Schell said. Matthew was convicted of attempted capital murder, abduction with intent to defile and a sexual assault charge.

Matthew, a former hospital staffer, could be ordered to serve three life sentences at his sentencing, set for October. As part of his plea, he will also have to register as a sex offender.

Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh said the convictions brought some comfort to a woman who had waited a decade to see her attacker brought to court. Soon after the plea, he called the woman, who had traveled from her native India to testify against Matthew.

“She said she was deeply moved and very grateful,” Morrogh said. “She was really moved by the fact that people from so far away would work so hard for so many years to bring her justice.”

Next week, the victim will take the stand once more. The judge is allowing her to testify in advance of the October sentencing so she does not have to travel again from India, reported the Post.

NBC reported the Alford plea clears the way for Matthew to be tried in Albemarle County in the death of Graham, 18, a University of Virginia sophomore who vanished last fall and whose skull and bones were later found eight miles from where she had last been seen. That trial has been delayed several times while authorities worked out the order of proceedings in the two cases.

People reported that the case of the Indian victim was pursued doggedly by Michael Boone, the lead detective on the case. He testified that police spent more than nine years investigating more than 40 people of interest while trying to find the attacker who left the woman bloodied and beaten on September 24, 2005.

While Boone told the court that he had pursued leads for years, he said he quickly ruled out many persons of interest because their DNA didn’t match or because they had an alibi.

Boone said a big break in the case came when he obtained a search warrant for Matthew’s DNA after he was arrested near Galveston, Texas, on September 24. Matthew had been the subject of a national manhunt after being named a “person of interest” in the search for Graham, who vanished in Charlottesville eleven days earlier. Her body was found on October 18 on a vacant property outside of the bucolic college town.

Forensic scientist Nathan Himes, who analyzed DNA from the victim, her clothing and a cigarette butt, told the jury that the most substantial evidence came from under her fingernails, according to Charlottesville’s Daily Progress.

Himes said he found DNA from the victim – and from a man – but that he could not determine how that DNA might have gotten on her, according to the report.

During opening arguments, one of Matthew’s attorneys, public defender Robert Frank, warned jurors that DNA can be easily transferred. “There is a possibility that DNA came … from innocent contact,” Frank said.

People reported that after flying back from India to testify, the victim told the jury that on September 24, 2005, she had walked from her townhouse in Fairfax to a nearby bookstore, reading for a while before she realized that it had become dark outside.

She stopped at a nearby supermarket and started to walk back home. When she had almost reached her townhouse, she said a stranger approached her and asked her a question about directions, which she said sounded confusing. She said she tried to help him but walked away, saying the man’s demeanor left her unnerved, the AP reports.

At that moment, she said her attacker grabbed her from behind, picked her up and brought her to a nearby wooded area.

“He banged my head on the grass, on the ground,” the victim said in court. “I was trying to push him away. I was punching him. He choked me.”

She said she tried to fight off her attacker by kicking and scratching him and by screaming: “He said, ‘If you scream again, I will twist your neck. If you let me do this, I will let you go.’ ” She said she lost consciousness while he was choking her.

Her attacker fled when a bystander, Mark Castro, approached them.

“She looked like she was nearly dead,” Castro told the court, according to the AP.

“She was walking toward me, slowly. … She had a lot of blood on her. She was in bad shape.”

While she was on the stand, the victim did not identify Matthew as her attacker. One of Matthew’s attorneys, Dawn Butorac, asked the victim why she had not told police earlier that her attacker had tried to rape her. On Friday, she told authorities for the first time about the rape.

“It was the most shocking thing and I couldn’t come to take it as a reality,” the victim replied.

Gil Harrington — mother of Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student who was killed and whose case is linked by DNA evidence to the Fairfax case — sat through the trial and said after the plea, “We’re a third of the way there,” referring to her daughter’s case, in which no charges have been filed; the Hannah Graham case; and the current case, reported the AP.

In an editorial, The Washington Post commended the victim from India for her courage and resoluteness to bring a criminal to justice.

“Whether out of misplaced shame, fear of another attack or distrust of authorities, too many victims choose to stay silent as their attackers go unpunished. So it is important to note and salute the bravery of a woman who agreed to travel half a world and relive a decade-old nightmare to bring her attacker to justice,” wrote the Post Editorial Board.

“The woman answered explicit questions about the assault and provided information about private aspects of her life. Yet she was resolute, speaking in even tones, The Post’s Justin Jouvenal and T. Rees Shapiro reported, her voice quavering only when she detailed the specifics of the assault. No doubt that kind of strength helped her as she faced the hurdles of getting justice, from submitting to medical examination to repeated questioning by police and prosecutors. She now lives in India, where she returned soon after the attack, but she wasn’t subpoenaed to testify against Mr. Matthew; she came here voluntarily. She also asked to give a victim impact statement at a hearing that has been set for Thursday. One thing that has motivated her, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh told us, was wanting to make it less likely that other women would go through what she did,” the Post wrote.

“The media generally withhold the name of people who have been sexually assaulted, but that sometimes makes it hard to thank or praise them. Or to think of them not as victims but as survivors. Even better was the description posted online from one reader about this woman: “a hero,” the Post editorial concluded.