Rape victim, 91, writes about trauma of attack

Attacker sentenced to 30-year term

July 25, 2006|By JULIE BYKOWICZ | JULIE BYKOWICZ,SUN REPORTER

In her tidy, cursive handwriting, the 91-year-old lifelong Northeast Baltimore resident explained the circumstances of the rape as best she could.

The woman did not come to Baltimore Circuit Court yesterday to see her attacker, Naji Muhammad, 43, plead guilty and receive a sentence of 30 years in prison. Her son and daughter sat silently on the courtroom benches; like their mother, they tried to convey the trauma of the crime in letters given to the judge.

She had lived in her Northeast Baltimore home for more than 65 years, filling it with treasures and memories. In recent years, she had lived there alone, peacefully, following a daily routine that concluded by reading the newspaper before bedtime.

"The house where this occurred was the first one I ever owned - my very own home (not just a house but a home - a place where I felt happy and secure)," she wrote in her letter.

On Feb. 27, 2005, when it was still dark outside, a stranger pushed in her bedroom window and crawled into her room.

"I was overwhelmed by the noise and turned on the light," she wrote. "A strange and menacing voice said, `Turn that off!' Very frightened, I did so."

He asked her where she kept her stockings. She told him they were in a dressing room in the basement. As he led her downstairs, he said he had been watching her and knew her nighttime habits.

"He directed me to go back to bed, tied my ankles together, and went on to raping me," she wrote.

At the court hearing yesterday, as Muhammad stood at the defense table, Assistant State's Attorney Jo Anne Stanton gave Circuit Judge John M. Glynn a more graphic account. Her children's letters also supplied more details. Because she is the victim of a sex crime, The Sun is not naming the woman or her children.

The woman's wrists and ankles had been bound with her stockings. After raping her, the man forced her to perform other sex acts, Stanton said. He slapped her face and hit her body, leaving bruises.

Sexual assaults of the very elderly are rare, but there have been some cases in the Baltimore region.

Raymont Hopewell, 35, is scheduled for trial in September. He is charged with five Baltimore killings, two rapes and numerous assaults over several years beginning in 1999. His oldest victim, police said, was an 88-year-old woman who was raped and murdered in 2002.

About two weeks before the Northeast Baltimore woman in yesterday's court case was attacked, a 90-year-old woman in an Annapolis apartment building reported a similar crime.

That woman was raped and beaten unconscious during a power outage Feb. 14, 2005, in the Glenwood Hi-Rise. A 51-year-old man was arrested the next day, but Anne Arundel County prosecutors dropped charges against him a few months later because the victim could not positively identify him.

At the Baltimore court hearing yesterday, the president of the woman's neighborhood improvement association wrote in a letter, read aloud during the hearing, that he was "sickened" that someone would sexually assault "a defenseless elderly woman."

"This brought panic, fear, anger and insecurity," he wrote, to an area with a relatively low crime rate.

For his part, Muhammad shook his head and seemed in disbelief as the prosecutor recounted the crime to which he was pleading guilty. His record of convictions, includes mostly burglaries and thefts. He has never been arrested for a sex crime, court records show.

When it came time for him to speak, Muhammad said he would not apologize. He said he remembered nothing.

"I don't know what kind of drug-induced coma I was in," he said.

The woman's letter picks up after the attack:

"When he accomplished this, he ordered me to return to the basement where my bathroom was. He drew hot water and ordered me to get in the tub and stay there at least fifteen minutes. I did as directed which gave him time to get away."

As daylight broke, she called her neighbor. He called her two adult children, and they called 911. An ambulance came to take her to Mercy Medical Center.

The letters tell of the woman's agonizing decision to move out of her longtime residence and into a retirement community apartment.

At first, her son wrote, she was resolved to move back home - to not let her attacker also steal her beloved home. So the family installed a security system and metal bars on the windows in preparation for her homecoming.

"In a very real way, it seemed that Mom was the one going to jail," the son wrote.

But the week she was to go home she changed her mind. "I realized there would be no going back," she wrote. "I then spent a few weeks with my son while my daughter emptied the house, putting my things in storage until I could secure an apartment."

The woman, who soon turns 92, concluded her letter with a note to the parole commissioners who will decide when Muhammad, sentenced to life in prison, with all but 30 years suspended, should be freed.

"If at this reading, my attacker is requesting a parole," she wrote, "I feel strongly that this should be denied."

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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