Man already serving 5 life sentences is found guilty of Ellicott City rape

December 10, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A Howard Circuit Court jury yesterday added another rap conviction to the record of a man already serving five life sentences for rapes in Anne Arundel County.

Michael Devon Armstead, 33, was found guilty of raping an Ellicott City woman. The jury deliberated for more than five hours following six days of testimony that ended yesterday.

Armstead, a former railroad worker from Brooklyn Park, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for attacking the 30-year-old receptionist after breaking into her home on the evening of Jan. 29, 1991.

"It was a nightmare that she had to live through," Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell told the jury during closing arguments. "It is an experience that, whether you're a man or a woman, is your worst nightmare.

"Give Michael Armstead what he deserves, which in this case is a conviction of the crimes."

The jury of seven women and five men convicted Armstead of two counts each of first-degree rape and burglary, and one count each of first-degree sexual offense, second-degree sexual offense, perverted sexual practices, assault and attempted robbery.

He will be sentenced by Judge Cornelius Sybert Jr. next week. The judge did not set a date for the sentencing.

Armstead, who did not testify, was charged with breaking into the victim's home by prying open a garage window and then "lunging" at the woman as she went to investigate noise from the break-in.

The victim testified that her attacker, who was wearing a stocking over his head, demanded money and jewelry, but she told him she didn't have any.

The man took her through the house looking for valuables, she testified. When they got to the kitchen, she showed him her wallet, which contained $2.

He then forced her to perform a sex act and have intercourse, she testified. After the rape, Armstead ordered the woman to dress and bound her hands behind her back with duct tape. He then took her outside, where he fled and she ran to neighbors to call police.

During the trial, Ms. O'Donnell introduced DNA evidence that showed a match between Armstead's blood and the semen found during a medical examination of the victim.

The laboratory conducted two tests of the samples, and both tests found matches, according to testimony.

The prosecutor also showed the jurors duct tape, pliers and a chisel that police found near Armstead when he was arrested after an attempted burglary in Anne Arundel on March 1, 1991.

But Louis Willemin, a public defender representing Armstead, argued that the prosecution's case was built on a "thin veneer" of evidence that does not hold up to close scrutiny.

"There are many reasons for doubt in this particular case," Mr. Willemin told the jurors.

The public defender pointed to discrepancies in the victim's description of her attacker. He noted that the woman did not mention the man had freckles until investigators showed her a composite sketch based on the description of a victim in another case.

Mr. Willemin also faulted the DNA evidence, arguing its results are inconclusive.

He said the technology does not yet exist for the tests to be completely accurate.

"Is it possible to make a mistake in this process? Of course it is," Mr. Willemin said. "This process has not been developed to the point where it can be relied on enough."

Armstead will have a separate trial in the rape of a Marriottsville woman in her home in May 1989. He also is charged with burglarizing another Marriottsville residence. Those cases have not been set for trial.

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