Richard Ywain Gregory, a 21-year-old former pizza deliveryman from Elkridge, was facing a maximum of life plus 43 years in prison for the kidnap and rape of a Perry Hall waitress.
But yesterday, Gregory hanged himself with part of a sheet in his jail cell at the Baltimore County Detention Center, officials said.
Gregory was facing trials on three other rape cases and three cases of attempted abduction in Baltimore, Howard and Prince George's counties and in Contra Costa, Calif. He was arrested in California last March, shortly after he fled Maryland.
Gregory took the stand in Baltimore County Circuit Court last Thursday and told Judge Dana M. Levitz that he didn't commit the rape and kidnapping of the Perry Hall woman and that police had coerced a confession from him.
His mother and girlfriend also testified on his behalf, saying he was with them for most of that Sunday night last Feb. 4 and didn't have time to rape the woman.
But Levitz dismissed Gregory's denial and said he believed the testimony of Gregory's victim, a slight, dark-haired, 29-year-old who positively identified Gregory in court as the man who raped her.
She also had provided an uncannily accurate description of Gregory's blue Dodge pickup truck, the judge noted.
Yesterday, the victim told a prosecutor she was shocked and upset by Gregory's suicide.
"She really had a difficult time putting words to it all," said Scott D. Shellenberger, a Baltimore County prosecutor who called the woman to tell her about Gregory's suicide. "She was shocked by it, like all of us."
"She said she felt bad, but knows she told the truth," he said. "She really didn't want to talk about it. She really just doesn't want to be involved."
Gregory was returned to Baltimore County from California March 17. He had fled Maryland the last week of February, after learning that police were looking for him.
E. Jay Miller, a county police spokesman, said police officers were summoned to the detention center yesterday about 5:30 a.m. to investigate the suicide.
Jail guards told police that Gregory was last seen alive about midnight, when they made a sweep through his block. Gregory was in a cell by himself.
At 5:05 a.m., the guards unlocked the cell doors for the wing and began waking inmates for breakfast. When guards got to Gregory's cell, they found him hanging from a sprinkler, Miller said.
Guards told police they took Gregory down quickly, but he had no pulse, and his body was cold and stiff, Miller said.
"We did find two letters, one of which amounted to a suicide note," said Miller. He said he didn't read the note, which began, "To whom it may concern."
Gregory had shown no signs of being a suicide risk since his arrival at the detention center in March, jail officials told police.
He was to be sentenced Nov. 5 for the Baltimore County rape conviction.
Gregory was facing trial in Howard County on charges that he raped a 28-year-old Columbia woman who was abducted from the parking lot at Columbia Mall in September 1989. He also was facing trial in Prince George's County in connection with the December 1989 rape of a 39-year-old Laurel woman who was attacked outside her place of work.
More attempted-abduction charges were pending against him in Baltimore, Howard and Prince George's counties.
And prosecutors said authorities in Contra Costa, Calif., were waiting for their chance to try Gregory on rape charges.
Just last month, a U.S. appeals court upheld a $185,000 award against two Baltimore County police officers for negligence in the 1987 suicide of James E. Buffington, who hanged himself in the Wilkens District lockup. In that case, relatives had warned police that Buffington might be suicidal, and police placed him in a single cell anyway.