Woman describes kidnap and rape Victim testifies, denies willingly joining defendant.

July 25, 1991|By Kelly Gilbert | Kelly Gilbert,Evening Sun Staff

On direct examination, the young woman had spoken softly as she told a federal jury how Keith W. McCormick Jr. abducted her at gunpoint in Towson, threatened her and raped her twice as he forced her to drive him on an overnight journey to Georgia.

On cross-examination by McCormick's defense lawyer, she had fire in her eyes and loathing in her voice.

The witness, testifying at McCormick's kidnapping trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore over the past two days, said the defendant "choked me until I passed out" in a Virginia motel room, then made her shower with him, raped her and forced her to perform other sexual acts with him.

That night, he bound her hands with shoestrings and raped her again in another motel room in North Carolina.

Throughout her ordeal, she said, McCormick kept a rifle within reach, and told her that if she "tried anything" he would hurt her with a knife he carried and a pistol he had strapped to his leg.

On cross-examination yesterday, defense attorney Joseph A. Balter, an assistant federal public defender, repeatedly asked the young woman questions that assumed her cooperation with the defendant, as Balter tried to discredit her damaging testimony.

But the young woman interrupted his questions with bitter denials that she went with McCormick willingly, and repeatedly said she had feared for her life.

She acknowledged that she never saw a pistol or knife.

But, she said acidly, "I didn't need a gun pointed to my head 24 hours a day to believe what he told me."

She said she could not remember minute details of the places they stopped, the description of a gas station attendant, how many people were in a grocery store, the number of cars in a parking lot, the furniture in a motel registration area where McCormick allegedly forced her to pay for their lodging with her credit card.

"I wasn't paying attention to details," she snapped at Balter. "I was paying attention to getting myself out of this situation. I was afraid every second I was with him [McCormick]."

Early in Balter's cross-examination, he began a question by saying, "When the two of you took a shower together. . . . "

The young woman began crying and blurted, "He had just tried to kill me! When he got in the shower, I did exactly what he said, because I didn't want to die!"

She acknowledged Balter's assertions, over and over, that she didn't seek help from motel clerks, gas station attendants or store employees, and didn't try to escape while McCormick was buying rifle bullets in a gun shop in Georgia.

She also acknowledged that perhaps five feet separated her and McCormick every time they got into her car, on opposite sides. Balter suggested that might have been enough distance for her to flee, but the young woman said she didn't try.

"It's not a problem for a bullet to travel that far," she said. "I never gave him cause to use his weapons. . . . I didn't want to cause any trouble for myself or anyone else, no."

Near the end of Balter's three-hour cross-examination, the young woman said she eventually told McCormick that she was going to stop her car and get out of it, regardless of what he might do to her.

She did, and ran crying into a nearby office, where she told the woman inside to call the police.

Minutes later, the woman in the office also called the young woman's father, and put her on the phone with him, the witness said.

Balter seemed to suggest, in one last probing question, that the young woman concocted the abduction story to cover her willing disappearance from Towson.

"You had to tell your father that you lost your car and your credit card, didn't you?" he asked.

"I wasn't concerned about the car!" the young woman shouted angrily. "Do you want to know what I told my father? I told him he [McCormick] did horrible things to me! Nobody gave a ---- about the car!"

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