Hopewell sentenced in rapes, murders

Plea deal spares him death penalty

September 15, 2006|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,sun reporter

As Raymont Hopewell finished saying he was sorry to the families of the five people he has confessed to killing, some audible sighs filled the packed courtroom yesterday. Some people fidgeted in their seats, while others murmured displeasure at what they felt was an insincere apology.

Hopewell's statement, in its entirety: "I just wanted to tell everybody that I'm sorry for their losses."

The killer stared straight ahead as he uttered the words, his face expressionless. For the still-grieving families who sat just feet away, the words were not enough to ease their pain or explain the brutal murders of four women and a man, all age 60 or older.

"To hear him say that in such a callous manner, he really shouldn't have said anything at all," said Isaiah Carter, grandson of Lydia Wingfield, one of Hopewell's victims. "It was very fake, unreal. The guy wasn't sorry."

Cecelia Smith, who found the body of her mother, Constance Wills, 60, bound and strangled in February 1999, did not feel Hopewell's single remark was good enough. "I don't think that it meant anything," Smith said.

Hopewell pleaded guilty in August to five murders, four rapes and other crimes, a deal that allowed him to escape the death penalty. As part of the agreement, Judge John M. Glynn sentenced him to four consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

The 35-year-old defendant, wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and white sneakers, rarely made eye contact with anyone other than his lawyer and appeared agitated while others spoke, including two victims who survived their attacks.

Rosellen McDavid, 63, said Hopewell broke into her home, ordered her down into her cellar and raped her. McDavid, who uses a cane, went into further detail outside of the courthouse. She agreed to make her name public.

McDavid said she talked to Hopewell during the assault, asking how he would feel if someone was doing this to his mother. "He said, `My mother is dead,'" McDavid said.

"I still have flashbacks. It's the most dramatic thing I've ever had to go through," she said.

Elenora Askins-McGee told the court of her encounter last September with Hopewell, one where she was stabbed multiple times. She still cannot use her right thumb.

"He's got me so afraid, I'm afraid to sleep in my house," Askins-McGee said. "I'm afraid to not sleep in my house. And I'd never been a person to be afraid of anything."

Askins-McGee said she has since dyed her hair from gray to black because she does not want people to think she is old. "I was afraid that if somebody would see I was gray-haired, they would attack me again."

Askins-McGee, 55, said Hopewell broke into her house through her kitchen window, grabbed her from behind and put a knife to her throat. Recounting the events for the second time outside of the courtroom, Askins-McGee said Hopewell was in her home long enough to drink three cans of soda and eat a loaf of bread.

She said Hopewell told her multiple times that he had planned to kill her and her husband, who was also in the house. But Askins-McGee said she was twice able to physically keep Hopewell at bay until he left.

"My mother used to say I have a strong mean streak, and it came out that day," she said.

As the nearly three-dozen family members and friends of the victims filed out of the courthouse, most were pleased that Hopewell will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Ivan Wingfield, son of Lydia Wingfield, was one of the few dissenters.

Wingfield had wanted prosecutors to seek the death penalty and he reiterated his stance during his courtroom testimony. Prosecutors could have sought the death penalty in four of the killings because they were committed alongside other felonies such as rape and burglary.

Hopewell's other murder victims were Sarah Shannon, 88; Sadie Mack, 78; and Carlton Crawford, 82.

"Because of what this person has done to my mother, he has torn this family apart," Wingfield said. "For him to live the rest of his life, I'm not happy at all."

Added Wingfield as he left the building, "I have my Christian beliefs as well. But the death penalty is warranted."

Police documents show DNA evidence linking Hopewell to all five killings and a confession to the Crawford murder last summer. Prosecutors said in a hearing last month that Hopewell left behind semen in the bodies of his rape victims and saliva on soda cans.

Hopewell was arrested and charged in the Crawford killing Sept. 20. Connections to the other deaths were made through DNA database hits.

He had previously been arrested for drug possession, theft, burglary, battery and failure to appear in court.

"My reaction to this is it wasn't enough," said Carter, Wingfield's grandson. "The bottom line is, we're being punished by having our tax dollars pay for this man. This whole thing is horrendous."


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