Man accused of calling woman after raping her gets life sentence

March 28, 2006|By JENNIFER MCMENAMIN | JENNIFER MCMENAMIN,SUN REPORTER

A Baltimore man convicted this year of a 1998 rape solved through DNA testing was sentenced to life in prison yesterday in a case that prosecutors say had an unusual - and chilling - twist.

Thurman Spencer Jr. began calling the woman he was accused of raping after his arrest, Baltimore County prosecutors said. It was an attempt, they said, to concoct a defense that he had a consensual sexual relationship with the woman and that his semen, found on her bedsheets in October 1998 after a masked gunman broke into her Owings Mills apartment, was not the result of an assault.

"When you have DNA evidence, there's no getting around that. He was there, in her apartment," said Stephen Roscher, an assistant state's attorney. "But nothing about DNA says it's necessarily criminal. ... So he has to show it's consensual."

That's where the phone calls in January and February 2005 come in, the prosecutor said. "To try to maneuver a defense with phone calls to an unsuspecting rape victim is just chilling," he said.

Neither the jury that convicted Spencer in January of first-degree rape, armed robbery, burglary and use of a handgun in a violent crime nor the judge who sentenced him yesterday apparently believed his story.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz handed down a life sentence and added four concurrent 20-year prison terms on each of the other charges.

Spencer, 36, maintained that he had had consensual sex with the victim and was not in her apartment Oct. 15, 1998, the night that the then-22-year-old woman and her boyfriend were robbed at gunpoint and she was raped.

"I was raised by my mother and grandmother. I had no father. I love women, your honor. I wouldn't violate a woman like that," Spencer told the judge. "We had sex before. It was on the sheets."

Defense attorney Howard L. Cardin asked the judge to keep in mind that Spencer was working and "living a good life" when he was arrested on New Year's Eve 2004 in the 1998 rape.

But Roscher said there was nothing Spencer could have done - with the exception of killing the victim before trial - that would have been as disturbing as the series of phone calls that began less than three weeks after Spencer was released from the county detention center after posting $75,000 bail.

The victim received the first phone call at the grocery store on Liberty Road where she works, from a woman who said she was a customer and that her brother, a "somewhat shy" man named Mark, had seen the victim at the grocery store and was interested in her, according to court records.

The victim told the female caller that her brother could phone her. Cell phone records show that between Jan. 21 and Feb. 14 of last year, Spencer called the rape victim at the grocery store and on her cell phone a dozen times. All but two of those calls lasted less than a minute, with Spencer leaving messages that the victim never returned, Roscher said.

During a 45-minute phone call, the woman told Spencer - the man she knew as Mark - that she had "uneasy feelings" about his calls, that "he had never shown his face" and that "she did not want him to call any further," Roscher wrote in a request to have the defendant's bail revoked. The phone records show that Spencer left two more messages on the victim's cell phone after that conversation.jennifer.mcmenamin@ baltsun.com

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