Rapist gets life in prison plus 25 years Judge says she fears the long-term effects on victim and sister

'Robbed of their innocence'

Ex-hospital janitor maintains that he was wrongly accused

April 18, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A Howard County judge -- seeking to give a convicted rapist a sentence that rivaled the scars he left on his teen-age victim a year ago -- sentenced Timothy B. Chase to life plus 25 years in prison yesterday.

With the victim sitting in the back of the courtroom, Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure said she feared the long-term effects of Chase's attack on the honors student, then 15, and her younger sister, then 7, behind the county's central library in Columbia in March 1996.

Even now, Leasure said, the younger girl -- who was forced to lie on the ground an arm's length away while her sister was raped -- is afraid to be alone with her older sibling because it was just the two of them together the night of the attack.

"They were robbed of their innocence, of their childhood and of their trust of people," Leasure said in court before sentencing Chase. "There is no question their lives have been changed."

Under the sentence Leasure imposed, Chase -- who has two prior armed robbery convictions -- must serve 27 1/2 years of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

The maximum he could have received was two life sentences plus 70 years, but judges rarely give maximum penalties in cases with multiple charges.

Until the end, Chase, a former janitor at Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, maintained his innocence. With an angry tone in his voice, Chase told Leasure that he was wrongly accused.

"I feel sorry for what happened to the victims, but I had nothing to do with it," Chase said to the judge before his sentencing. "I will continue to plead my innocence."

Chase, 29, was found guilty of 15 charges, including rape, kidnapping and robbery after a week-long trial before Leasure in February in Carroll County Circuit Court.

The trial was moved because of pretrial publicity.

After the sentencing yesterday, Chase whispered intensely to his attorney as he was handcuffed in the courtroom and led away.

During his trial, Chase testified that he did not rape or rob the girls. That night, he told the jurors, he was out buying crack cocaine with money earned in part from ironing his stepmother's nurse uniforms.

Rings found on Chase

Police found two rings stolen from the rape victim in Chase's pockets just days after the rape. Chase testified that he got the rings as partial payment in a crack sale the night of the rape.

Prosecutors presented the rings and DNA evidence they said linked Chase to the crime.

According to testimony, Chase forced the girls -- who were waiting for their mother to pick them up outside a library after it closed at 9 p.m. -- into the woods behind the library.

After the attack, the girls ran through the woods half-naked and banged on the door of Toby's Dinner Theater, where cast members found them.

An 'evil' person

In court yesterday, prosecutors called Chase, of West Columbia, an "evil" person.

"One can hardly conceive of a character so depraved that he would commit such a heinous crime," Assistant State's Attorney Joeday Newsom said.

Noting Chase's long criminal record -- he spent all but six months between December 1984 and May 1994 in jail -- Newsom said Chase was beyond rehabilitation.

"Clearly, the threat of incarceration means nothing to Mr. Chase," Newsom said. "His own record seals his fate. We cannot take another chance with Mr. Chase."

Chase's attorney, Assistant Public Defender W. Samuel Truette, conceded that Chase has a troubled past but said none of his prior convictions showed any disposition toward committing a rape.

"He insists and until his dying breath he will insist, he did not do this," Truette said.

Relief for victim

Chase's lengthy sentence brought a sense of relief to the rape victim, said Sheila Begg, a crisis counselor with the Howard County Sexual Trauma, Treatment and Recovery Center.

"I think her smile said volumes," Begg said after the sentencing.

"I think anybody in this situation is hoping for closure, but that's not to say it's going to happen. This is a piece of it."

But life likely will never be the same for the victim, Leasure said.

The girl told the judge that she has trouble sleeping, has difficulty concentrating in school and is afraid to be alone with men she does not know. Leasure said the girl has lied to her friends so they would not know she had been raped.

"She will remember her first sexual experience as a night of pain and horror," Leasure said.

Pub Date: 4/18/97

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