Baltimore man pleads guilty to five rapes from the 1980s

`Sunglass Rapist' eluded Baltimore County police

August 17, 2005|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Nearly 20 years after a series of sexual assaults in the Catonsville and Arbutus areas led police on an unsuccessful search for a man they dubbed the "Sunglass Rapist," a 53-year-old Baltimore man pleaded guilty yesterday to raping five girls and young women and to kidnapping or trying to kidnap two others during a three-year period in the 1980s.

Thaddeus Sylvester Clemons bowed his head during a hearing yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court as prosecutors methodically detailed each of the crimes and noted the similarities in the assaults -- including that the assailant in each case forced his victim to wear dark sunglasses, either wraparound or with side lenses.

When asked by Judge Dana M. Levitz why he chose to plead guilty to 17 charges, including five for first-degree rape, Clemons replied, "I'm guilty, sir."

Clemons' arrest late last year followed genetic testing that matched his DNA profile with evidence collected from a March 1987 sexual assault on an 18-year-old woman -- a case with parallels to the others, according to prosecutors and charging documents.

The crimes were committed near each other and near Clemons' home in the 700 block of S. Woodington Road. The assailant in four of the five rapes either laid his jacket on the ground or told the victim to take off her coat. In the fifth, a piece of linoleum was used.

Victims in most of the cases told authorities that their assailant said he would not hurt them if they did what he told them, and two said he threatened to kill or find them if they told anyone what had happened.

There were six total cases involving seven victims. In one case, the victim was able to escape her assailant.

All six cases involved the use of sunglasses. In three cases, the attacker was armed with a gun, in three others with a knife, according to prosecutors.

One case involved two friends, ages 12 and 14, who were forced to walk to a cemetery, where one was raped.

Authorities at the time of the crimes -- the earliest occurring in October 1985, the latest in July 1988 -- were unable to identify an assailant, according to charging documents. Although Clemons' pickup truck was stopped during the investigation into the case in which the victim was able to escape her attacker, prosecutors said yesterday that the 17-year-old girl could not identify him.

It was the DNA match in the March 1987 case that led to Clemons' arrest in all six cases 19 years later, prosecutors said. Clemons' genetic profile had been entered into a DNA database because of his 1990 conviction for child sexual abuse, a crime that netted him a 10-year sentence, prosecutors said.

"The police always believed the cases were linked just because of the way they occurred," prosecutor Dean Stocksdale said yesterday after the hearing, noting that authorities gave the name "Sunglass Rapist" to the unknown assailant. "They just never had a suspect until the DNA on one case of these similar cases came back to Clemons."

Defense attorneys James Gitomer and Gary Schenker declined to comment yesterday.

In addition to the five rape charges, Clemons' guilty pleas included six counts of kidnapping, four counts of armed robbery and one count each of attempted kidnapping and attempted armed robbery.

Prosecutors told the judge yesterday that they plan to argue for "substantial incarceration," but Levitz told Clemons that he expects to impose a life sentence with all but 22 years suspended at the Sept. 28 sentencing.

The judge did not say what led to his decision. Defense attorneys said they planned to ask for a sentence with 18 years of prison time.

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