Suspected Serial Rapist Convicted

32-year-old Found Guilty Of Attacking Woman Twice

December 06, 1991|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff writer

A 32-year-old Brooklyn Park man, suspected in a series of attacks laid to the "North County rapist," was convicted yesterday of raping a woman in her Glen Burnie home in January 1989 -- and then returning more than a year later to assault her again.

A county Circuit Courtjury deliberated an hour and 40 minutes before finding Michael D. Armstead guilty of two counts each of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense and burglary in the attacks. Armstead is also awaiting trial on charges of one rape and two burglaries in Anne Arundel County and two rapes in Howard County. He is also a suspect in five rapes a decade ago in West Virginia.

In each of the cases, the victim reported being attacked by an articulate intruder.

Armstead had been held in lieu of an $800,000 bond pending the trial. Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. revoked the bond yesterday after prosecutor Cynthia M. Ferris said, "Let there be no mistake about it. The state will be pursuing two life sentences, consecutive."

Thieme set sentencing for Feb. 7.

Armstead's convictionyesterday ended a three-day trial in which the defense questioned the reliability of DNA test results that linked him to the rapes. But Ferris said the case was about more than DNA testing.

She told the jurors they would probably never forget the 32-year-old rape victim'stestimony.

Testimony that she had come home Jan. 22, 1989, to find a hooded figure standing near her back door. The man, holding a carving knife, put a pillowcase over her head, wrapped duct tape around her neck and raped her, she testified. He then poked holes in the pillowcase and forced her to perform oral sex.

Testimony that the woman was awakened around 4 a.m. Sept. 7, 1990, by the sound of breakingglass. Ferris told the jury: "She knew in her heart that it was the same man. She told you she knew it was him coming back and that he was going to rape her again."

Testimony that the man came into her bedroom and asked, "Did you miss me?" before blindfolding her and raping her.

And testimony that after being warned by the rapist not tocall police, the woman drove to her brother's house and cried, "He came back."

The prosecutor pointed to DNA tests of Armstead's bloodand semen recovered after the rapes that she said showed within oddsof 1 in 2.5 million that he was responsible for both attacks. And she reminded the jury that Armstead, after being arrested last March onsuspicion of burglary, responded to police questions about sex offenses by saying, "Now you want to get me for raping those white women."

The race of the rape victims had never been publicized, Ferris said.

Defense attorney Robert E. Morin did not dispute the woman's account of the rapes, but he said the state had not proved that his client was responsible. He asked the jury to be skeptical about claims of near-infallibility of DNA tests conducted by Cellmark Diagnostics.

Armstead is scheduled to be tried in February in Howard County oncharges of raping two women, Howard County police Detective Thomas M. Martin said. Armstead also has been charged with six counts of burglary there.

Ted Offutt, chief of police in Fairmont, W.Va., said authorities are continuing to investigate five rapes there in 1981. Herefused to discuss the results of DNA tests made in an attempt to solve those crimes; Armstead has not been charged in any of those rapes.

Authorities have described similar methods used in the differentrapes. In most cases, including those involving the Glen Burnie woman, the rapist wore gloves, was methodical in his attack and was described as well-spoken and articulate.

After the verdict, the Glen Burnie woman said, "I'm happy (the jurors) decided what they decided. I'm sorry both families had to be pulled through this garbage. I don'tthink my conscience would have let me rest if I hadn't done something."

Members of Armstead's family maintained his innocence. With tearing eyes, his father, Robert Armstead, said he had now lost two sons. Another son was murdered two decades ago, he said.

The defendant's mother, Zelda Armstead, sat on a bench and sobbed loudly, repeating, "They took my baby from me."

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