Carroll jurors convict man, 29, in robbery, rape of Howard girl, 15 Sentencing set for April

could result in life term

February 02, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Timothy B. Chase was convicted yesterday of raping and robbing a 15-year-old girl as she waited for her mother outside Howard County's central library in Columbia.

Chase looked steadily at the Carroll County jurors as the foreman read the verdict that could send him to prison for life.

But after the jurors left, Chase -- wearing an African Kufi cap and a T-shirt that read "JESUS" across the back -- began talking feverishly to his attorney, throwing his hands up in apparent frustration.

The jury, which was sequestered Thursday, deliberated 3 1/2 hours before returning with a verdict. It found Chase, 29, guilty of 15 charges including first- and second-degree rape, kidnapping, robbery and perverted sexual practices for forcing the teen-ager and her 7-year-old sister into the woods behind the library on March 20.

Chase of West Columbia will be sentenced April 10 in Howard Circuit Court by Judge Diane O. Leasure, who moved the trial to Carroll County because of pretrial publicity.

The charges of first-degree rape and first-degree sex offense carry maximum sentences of life in prison. Because Chase has been convicted of two armed robberies, he is subject to Maryland's statute that calls for criminals convicted of three violent offenses to be sentenced to at least 25 years without parole.

The case against Chase struck a chord in the hearts of many Howard County parents who found themselves second-guessing the safety they always had taken for granted in the suburb.

Assistant State's Attorney Janine L. Rice, the lead prosecutor on the case, said she was pleased by the verdict.

"Pleasure is an understatement," Rice said. "As a person and an individual, the hardest part of the case was hearing Dr. [Willie] Bivings' testimony describing the injuries" and the victim's pain during the rape examination.

"It hasn't been a hard case. It's been a very involved case," Rice said at Carroll County Circuit Court.

Neither Chase's attorney W. Samuel Truette, nor Chase would comment on the case.

In five days of testimony and arguments, prosecutors centered their case on two pieces of physical evidence: DNA tests on semen stains found on the victim's sweater they said linked Chase to the crime, and two gold rings worn by the victim the night of the rape that police found in Chase's pockets five days later.

Their case appeared to suffer a blow when the victim, after a moving hour of testimony, could not positively identify Chase as her assailant.

In a bold defense move, Chase testified in his defense Friday that he was a convicted armed robber and drug dealer and had been given the two rings as partial payment in a crack cocaine sale the night of the rape.

In closing arguments yesterday, Chase's attorney told the jury that Chase had bared an "ugly truth" to them by admitting he was selling drugs -- in violation of his probation.

"Yes, he's a stickup man and a drug dealer but that doesn't make him a rapist," Truette said.

But Rice responded by telling the jurors that this was not a case about admitting past sins, but about finding the truth.

"He wants to plea-bargain with you," Rice told the jurors pointing at Chase. "This is not 'Geraldo Rivera,' where you air your dirty laundry in the hopes that people will think there is nothing worse you possibly could have done."

Chase spent all but six months between December 1984 and May 1994 in jail, convicted of two armed robberies and selling cocaine to an undercover policeman.

After his release in 1994, he began working as a janitor at Howard County General Hospital.

Throughout the trial, Truette -- Chase's attorney -- never disputed the viciousness of the crime, but tried to convince jurors Chase was not the man who did it. Truette said the victim never picked Chase out of a lineup or identified his picture, and faltered when called to identify him from the witness stand Tuesday.

" 'I think so' " said Truette recalling the victim's testimony when she was asked if her assailant was in the courtroom. "The state just said that would be enough for you. Would that be enough for you?"

Truette pointed to Chase's claim that he walked with a limp at the time of the rape, something that the girls did not mention in their testimonies. Chase also has bad teeth and the girls did not mention that either, Truette said.

But in the end, the jury decided that Chase did commit the crime that one PTA leader called "a parent's nightmare."

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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