Rapist draws 5th life term Armstead is sentenced in Brooklyn Park assault

June 16, 1992|By Deidre Nerreau McCabe | Deidre Nerreau McCabe,Staff Writer

A judge added enough years to the prison sentence of serial rapist Michael D. Armstead yesterday to ensure he won't get out of jail before he's 115 years old.

After deliberating only an hour and 15 minutes yesterday, a county jury of six men and six women found the 32-year-old former railroad worker guilty of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual offense and burglary for a Feb. 6, 1990 attack of a 35-year-old Brooklyn Park woman.

Immediately after the verdict, Circuit Judge H. Chester Goudy Jr. sentenced Armstead to life in prison for the rape, which occurred in the woman's home. Armstead also received 20 years for the sexual offense and 20 years for the burglary, to be served concurrently with the life term.

The sentences imposed by Goudy in Annapolis Monday will be tacked onto four life sentences Armstead has begun for raping a Glen Burnie woman.

He was found guilty in December of raping the 32-year-old woman in her home on two occasions eight months apart.

Leonard A. Sipes Jr., director of public information for Public Safety and Correctional Services, said defendants must serve at least 15 years of a life sentence. At a conservative estimate, Armstead will be 115 years old before he's eligible for parole.

On Monday, he took the stand briefly in his own defense, denying any involvement in the rape.

Armstead, who is not married but said he's the father of three daughters, did not testify at his first trial.

Wearing tight white jeans with a large tear across one leg and a white shirt unbuttoned halfway down his chest, Armstead described his job as a car inspector with CSX Corp. in Curtis Bay and his after-hours routine.

After finishing his shift at 11 p.m., he said, he would typically go home, take a shower, have dinner and "watch 'Nightline' or maybe a movie."

Although he said he does not remember specifically the night of the rape, he testified he had never been to the victim's house and had never seen her before the trial.

Robert E. Morin, Armstead's attorney, submitted his client's work records to show he had worked until 11 p.m. the night of the rape.

He asked the jury to consider how his client could have gone "from work clothes to being a rapist in less than an hour."

But Prosecutor Cynthia M. Ferris said the work records only prove Armstead was in the area at the time of the attack.

The CSX Corp., she said, was just a five-minute drive from the victim's house, and the Ritchie Motel, where Armstead lived, was equally close.

"He could have walked there in a few minutes," she said.

Much of the prosecution's case centered on blood tests and DNA evidence, so-called genetic fingerprinting, which connected Armstead to the crime.

Police recovered semen from the woman's clothes, which was used by state police for blood tests and by a private firm in Montgomery County for DNA testing.

Semen can be used to determine blood type and to create a DNA profile, which can then be compared with a blood sample taken from the defendant.

On Friday, experts for the prosecution testified that the DNA profile proved Armstead was the rapist.

Dr. Charlotte Word, a molecular biologist from Cellmark Diagnostics, said there was only a one in 2.2 million chance the attack could have been by anyone else.

Morin spent much of his cross-examination trying to discredit the reliability of DNA evidence. During his closing argument, he said, "It's not expert testimony, it's opinion testimony."

The jury wasn't persuaded.

One juror, who asked not to be identified, said the jury thought the DNA evidence and blood test results were the strongest part of the case.

"We never doubted their accuracy," he said.

County police arrested Armstead on March 1, 1991, after finding him crouched outside a Linthicum apartment complex. A small bundle containing black pantyhose, gloves, a chisel, pliers and duct tape was found under a nearby bush. Both rape victims said the attacker wore a mask and used duct tape to cover their eyes.

Police Detective Greg Eshleman, who discovered the bundle, said a loaded .38-caliber revolver was also found in the bundle. Police were not allowed to mention the gun during testimony because it was not used during the Brooklyn Park rape.

After the sentencing, the victim's husband said he and his wife were relieved the trial was over, but their pain will never go away.

"It will never be over for my wife and our family and the other victims," he said. "My wife is the nicest person there is. When you think of Ivory Snow, you think of my wife. This just shows it could happen to anyone."

The night of the attack, the woman testified, she was awakened by a noise and looked up to see the rapist in her doorway. The attacker threatened to kill her 5-year-old twin boys, who were sleeping in the next room, if she resisted.

"He put his knife to my throat and said, 'If you scream, I'll kill you and I'll kill your kids,' " she said. The victim gave a general description of her attacker, which matched the defendant, but was unable to identify his face because he wore a mask and put duct tape around her eyes and a pillow case over her head.

Ferris said after the sentencing she was "thrilled" with the outcome.

"This is a very dangerous man. I just wanted to keep him away from society as long as possible," she said.

Morin said his client would appeal the convictions and four-term sentence in the first case, which he considered "cruel and unusual punishment."

With Armstead sentenced to a total of five life terms, Ferris said she would drop two pending cases, a 1991 burglary and sexual offense, and a 1991 attempted burglary. Trying those cases at this point "would be counterproductive," she said.

Armstead is also scheduled to stand trial in September in two rapes in Howard County.

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