Man faces rape charge

DNA ties suspect to August attack on grandmother in Roland Park

April 15, 2008|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,Sun reporter

The same DNA evidence that cleared a man charged with raping a 59-year-old grandmother in her Roland Park home last year has led police to charge another suspect in the attack, according to court records made public yesterday.

Baltimore police charged Roger L. Ervin, 46, of the 3500 block of Dudley Ave. in Baltimore with first-degree rape, conspiracy, armed robbery, assault, burglary and handgun offenses.

The Aug. 23 attack that provoked fear in the small subdivision of Tuxedo Park occurred after police said two men followed the victim home from shopping, burst into her home, threatened her with guns and demanded money.

Virginia Keyes Lasseter, a member of the Wyndhurst Improvement Association board, said she is friends with the victim and lives a few doors down on the same street. Lasseter said residents have taken steps during the past few months to make their homes safer, including installing lights and locks.

"Every possible thing you can think of we're doing," Lasseter said. "And we're keeping our eyes peeled. ... This evil thing swept in from nowhere. And we had a safe block. People talk to each other, look out for each other. That's why there was such shock."

According to court records, the victim left her front door unlocked as she unpacked her groceries and began to cook alone in her kitchen about 8 p.m. While standing at the stove, she heard footsteps behind her, turned around and saw two men pointing handguns at her, according to the police charging documents.

The men took $7 from her purse and her credit cards and said they were going to go upstairs to look for more money. One put her in an arm lock, which caused her to fall to the floor and almost lose consciousness, according to court records. One man then dragged her upstairs with the other following and threw her onto her bed.

The victim, according to court records, told the men that she was a grandmother, that she was to host a party for her grandchildren and begged one of the men not to rape her. After the assault, which occurred while one of the intruders was downstairs, they left. As soon as the victim heard the door slam, she called 911, according to charging documents.

The Sun does not identify victims of sexual assault.

Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the city state's attorney's office, declined to comment on the case. No other suspect has been arrested, said Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department.

The man originally charged in the rape was arrested Aug. 27 after a detective noticed a similarity between him and an artist's sketch of the attacker. The victim also identified the man accused in a photo array. But prosecutors in September dropped the charges when a DNA match was not made.

The attorney who represented the first suspect, Chaz Ricks, said his client is thrilled a new arrest has been made. He said Ricks and his family have struggled because of the publicity the attack generated.

"It has adversely affected his psyche," said the attorney, Larry Rosenberg. "And I think his grandmother was greatly affected. She will be happy."

Authorities routinely compare DNA samples from crime victims to samples collected from people convicted of crimes to see if a match can be made. That is what occurred this case, according to court documents. Those documents say the victim was not able to identify Ervin from a police photo lineup.

Ervin was being held at the Patuxent Institution, a state treatment facility for mentally ill prisoners, on Friday, the day the warrant for his arrest in the rape was served. He is now being held without bond at the Baltimore City Detention Center. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled for May 6.

Authorities are increasingly using DNA evidence to identify suspects in criminal cases, and Gov. Martin O'Malley recently completed a successful push for an expansion of DNA collection. Samples will be collected from suspects charged with violent crimes - not just those convicted - but under a compromise with critics, samples will be destroyed if charges do not result in a conviction.

Since 2002, city prosecutors have won eight murder convictions and six sex-offense convictions after DNA taken from a victim matched samples found in databases, according to Burns, with the city state's attorney's office.

"On sex offenses, we've had about a dozen people charged after matches, but only half have been successfully prosecuted because we've had issues with recontacting victims," she said. "They've often moved on. It has been years since the sex offense. And they often are reluctant to have that chapter reopened in their lives."

melissa.harris@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Brent Jones contributed to this article.

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