Victim in '88 rape faces accused man in court

DNA match led to arrest in Cape St. Claire attack

March 19, 2003|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

The victim of a rape that took place in Annapolis more than 14 years ago faced her alleged attacker in court yesterday, testifying that he left DNA evidence on her skirt that enabled prosecutors to charge him with the long-unsolved crime.

Robert Marshall Eiseman, 42, was the first person in Maryland to be charged in a cold case based on genetic evidence after state police began compiling a DNA database of thousands of offenders, according to police.

He was serving a 20-year prison term for a Montgomery County rape and attempted-murder conviction - and was weeks away from being paroled - when he was charged in the Annapolis case, prosecutors said.

Eiseman was indicted on a charge of second-degree rape and five related charges stemming from the attack on the Cape St. Claire waitress, then 22, as she returned home from work in the early hours of Dec. 1, 1988.

The woman testified yesterday that Eiseman, whom she did not know, followed her car from the restaurant where she worked and surprised her in the front yard of her home.

"He grabbed me by the mouth, my face, and threw me on the ground." she said. "I was able to get a few screams out here and there, but he told me to shut up or he was going to strangle me."

In court, the woman looked directly at the defendant, who did not appear to return her gaze. Her voice quavered and she wiped away tears as she described how she tried to get the attention of her boyfriend and her roommate, who were asleep in the house.

Police collected semen from the victim's skirt and stored it until 2001. Assistant State's Attorney Kathleen E. Rogers told the jury yesterday that the evidence from the black miniskirt, part of the woman's work uniform, has been linked to Eiseman.

"He left his calling card." Rogers said during her opening statement. "He left his DNA on [the] skirt."

But defense attorney Dean A. Shure argued that DNA matching is not an exact science.

"The state will tell you that DNA evidence is conclusive M-` but humans are involved in the analysis of DNA evidence, and DNA evidence is not infallible." Shure said.

The attorney also said that his client, an apprentice carpenter who lived in Glen Burnie at the time of the crime, did not match the physical description that the victim gave police.

The woman said her assailant was thin to medium in build, had shoulder-length hair and was clean-shaven, Shure said. But Eiseman, who is 5 feet 7 inches tall, was close to 200 pounds in 1988, had short hair and sported a thick mustache.

The attorney said that around the time of the crime, Eiseman was working two jobs from 4 a.m. until 11 p.m. daily, when he would go home to his wife.

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