Man, 39, convicted of rape, robbery Defendant is charged in three other cases

November 05, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

A former Ellicott City man who police say was a serial rapist targeting Korean women was convicted yesterday in Howard County Circuit Court of raping, sodomizing and robbing a woman in her home last February.

Tak Wha Tsang, 39, winced as the foreperson for the jury of six men and six women announced the guilty verdict on the first count of second-degree rape. But as 11 guilty verdicts on the remaining counts were read, Tsang stared straight ahead, not showing emotion.

After the verdicts, the brother-in-law of the victim glared at Tsang, mouthing an epithet.

Tsang, a former car salesman in Baltimore County, also was convicted of first-degree rape, armed robbery, burglary and other charges in connection with the rape of a 38-year-old Korean woman in Ellicott City on Feb. 5.

He faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced Jan. 9.

Tsang -- originally of Hong Kong -- has three other cases of rape and sexual assault pending against him. Two in Howard County are scheduled to be tried Dec. 8. The third is scheduled Nov. 18 in Baltimore County. All of the victims are Korean.

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Rexroad said his office will either attempt to enter into an "acceptable" plea bargain in the remaining Howard cases or take them to trial. Rexroad said he did not know why Tsang appeared to be targeting Korean women -- a concern that prompted police to issue a warning to the Asian community in February.

The most critical evidence presented at trial, Rexroad said, was tests that showed Tsang's DNA was found in semen in the house -- a match that could occur in 1 in 1.7 billion other Chinese men.

"We had two types of DNA evidence that virtually excluded all other people on the planet Earth," Rexroad said outside court.

In his closing arguments, he described Feb. 5 as a night of terror for the victim, who came home from her job as a hair stylist, prepared to take a shower and encountered in her bedroom a knife-wielding man wearing a mask and black gloves.

He forced the woman to take off her bathrobe, handcuffed her, robbed her, took pictures of her naked on the bed, raped and sodomized her.

"It was a crime that is abhorred by all civilized society," Rexroad told the jury, which deliberated four hours.

In emotional testimony, the victim -- who spoke through an interpreter -- testified she so feared for her life that she grabbed her attacker's knife when he went downstairs and hid it in a shower cap. Once her attacker left, she ran out of the house, went to the home of a person whose hair she was scheduled to cut and broke down.

"I was so afraid to stay inside my house," the victim testified through heaving sobs.

Tsang's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Richard S. Bernhardt, said the sex was consensual: The victim offered a massage and sex to Tsang for $150 when he came to her house looking for his girlfriend. Tsang later stole the $150 back, Bernhardt said.

Pointing to a photo of the victim's bed, he said: "Is that bed in the condition that you would expect from such a violent, nonconsensual" act? He added: The sex "was about as dispassionate as you can expect from that kind of setting, a trick."

The victim's brother-in-law said he had to leave the courtroom after Tsang testified Monday that he had paid the victim to have sex with him. "I really was not expecting the [character] attack [against her]," the brother-in-law said.

Prosecutor Jeannie Cho attacked the allegation.

"All that you have, to add insult to injury, is wild speculation and innuendo," Cho told the jury during rebuttal arguments. "What a desperate lie."

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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