Jury finds man guilty in murder, rape of teen Prosecutors are seeking life sentence, no parole for slaying of runaway

November 03, 1995|By Elaine Tassy | Elaine Tassy,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury took less than two hours yesterday to find Rafel Bonner guilty of murder, rape and other charges in the January death of a 16-year-old runaway.

Bonner, a 26-year-old unemployed Essex man, was convicted in the Jan. 20 strangulation of Courtney Danielle Letiro, an Edgewood girl who had run away from home with two friends.

The trial began Tuesday and concluded yesterday with prosecutors saying Bonner beat and raped the teen-ager near the Back River sewage plant, and robbed her of jewelry.

Defense lawyer Gerald D. Glass called no witnesses yesterday, but attacked the state's case, arguing that there was no sign of forcible rape. He also said that the victim had agreed to have sex with Bonner in exchange for $20 and offered her jewelry as "collateral."

Mr. Glass contended that the death occurred accidentally during rough sex and that Bonner panicked afterward.

In closing arguments yesterday afternoon, Assistant State's Attorney S. Ann Brobst told the jury of nine men and three women that Bonner robbed the young victim of a diamond and ruby ring her mother had given her. "There's no way she would have turned that ring over to someone she met just a few hours before," the prosecutor said.

She attacked the defense argument of rough sex as "absurd" and said that the victim "was ravaged," and that Bonner later deceived Courtney's friends, telling them she left the woods and got into the car of another youth.

Mr. Glass said in his closing argument that for a rape to have occurred, there would be some bruising, none of which was noted in the medical examiner's report, he said.

He acknowledged that Bonner was responsible for the girl's death, but told jurors: "Bad things happen all the time that people don't mean them to happen."

The jury received the case about 3 p.m. and reached its verdict less than two hours later. Bonner was found not guilty of pre-meditated murder, but guilty of first-degree murder, first-degree rape and robbery, and resisting arrest and assault on Baltimore County homicide Detective Milton Duckworth, who arrested Bonner Feb. 1.

"He got what he deserved," the victim's mother, Sue Letiro, said after the verdict was read. Outside the courthouse, she said Mr. Glass used "sleazeball" tactics in arguing that the sex was consensual. "He raped her, he murdered her," she said of Bonner.

Prosecutors will seek a life sentence without parole, and Circuit Judge Christian M. Kahl set sentencing for Jan. 5. Mr. Glass asked for a presentencing investigation.

Bonner missed most of the trial, exercising his right not to be in the courtroom. His attorney said he was emotionally unable to attend the trial, but Bonner sat through closing arguments.

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