Man sentenced in serial rapes

60-year term imposed for assaults since 1978 in and around Balto. Co.

November 13, 2008|By Nick Madigan | Nick Madigan,nick.madigan@baltsun.com

A serial rapist who prosecutors believe began attacking women three decades ago in and around Baltimore County was sentenced yesterday to 60 years in prison.

At the hearing, Alphonso W. Hill was linked to four additional rapes beyond the six that he admitted to last month. The sentencing judge described Hill as "a monster."

Hill, who will be 57 next week, will begin serving his sentence - eight 60-year terms, to run concurrently - after he has completed the 15-year term he is now serving in his 2002 conviction for attacking Laura Neuman, a technology executive whose persistence over two decades finally led to Hill's prosecution.

"I'm truly ashamed for what I've done," Hill said, tears streaming down his face, his ankles shackled, as he stood and faced his victims and asked them to forgive him "for the pain and suffering I've caused you and your families all these years."

Before sitting down, he added, "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Hill, who remains a suspect in other rape cases, pleaded guilty on Oct. 6 to attacking and sexually assaulting six women, primarily along the Loch Raven Boulevard corridor, between 1978 and 2000.

Since Hill's plea, two additional assaults, which took place in January and February 1984, were linked to him through DNA matches, and those indictments were presented yesterday to Judge Dana M. Levitz for disposition alongside the initial six. During the hearing, his lawyer, Stanley W. Robbins, said that while his client admits to having "probably" committed the two rapes in 1984, "he just doesn't remember the facts."

Nevertheless, Hill agreed to the same plea arrangement that had dictated the other cases. An additional two rapes, also linked to Hill through DNA, will not be prosecuted because the victims have chosen not to press charges, said Assistant State's Attorney Jason League, who described Hill as "a small and cowardly man."

Asked by the judge if he understood the conditions of the plea deal, under which he will not be eligible for parole for more than 30 years, Hill responded, "You've been very clear, your honor."

The sentencing in Baltimore County Circuit Court in Towson was marked by harrowing statements from the women, some of whom came to the hearing from out of state. All said they remain deeply affected by their ordeal.

"I've never known terror that deep," said the first woman to speak, who was raped at gunpoint in a laundry room on Donnybrook Lane and threatened with death in January 1984, when she was 20 years old and "a very shy girl."

As she dissolved into tears, the woman recalled expecting that her assailant was going to kill her, and imagining her mother and grandmother having to identify her body. Her voice trembling, she described years of insomnia and deep-seated fear, of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, of "hideous" relationships with men, of "being obsessed with the idea that I'd contracted AIDS," of trying to commit suicide by slitting her wrists.

"I wasn't the sweet person I used to be," she said in a torrent of words. "I felt sick and damaged. I couldn't bring myself to have children. How could I protect my children if I couldn't protect myself? I hated myself for years."

One woman said her little son "couldn't understand why his mommy cried a lot."

Another, who was raped at gunpoint by Hill in September 1979, when she was a 21-year-old college student from another state, said, "No child should have to fear that this kind of atrocity should happen to them."

Later yesterday, as she prepared to board a plane, the woman said by phone that the hearing had been "cathartic" and "more emotional than I'd anticipated." Now married and the mother of two children, she said Hill seemed "very much disempowered," compared with how she remembered him.

"That night, he was armed, he was aggressive," she recalled. "He grabbed my ponytail and wrenched my neck back. That was not the man I saw in court today."

The Baltimore Sun does not name victims of sexual assault unless, like Neuman, they ask to be identified.

As they walked back to their seats during the hearing, each of the women received a hug from Neuman, who has become an outspoken advocate of rape victims' rights. Even Hill thanked her: "God bless you, Miss Neuman, for all the help you've given these women."

But to Neuman - who is living in Mill Valley, Calif., with her husband and two children - Hill's apology to his victims rang hollow. He had expressed the same contrition in her own case and had claimed that she had been his only victim.

As yesterday's sentencing showed, Neuman said, that was far from true. "If he were really sincere, he would take ownership of all these crimes. There's nothing to talk about until he has done that."

The judge was equally condemning. "I believe Mr. Hill could have been so much more than the monster that he was," Levitz said. "But monster he was."

Fortunately for everyone, the judge said, "there are not a lot of Mr. Hills around."

Levitz told his crowded courtroom that Hill's convictions in the eight rapes would have been impossible without Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker, a retired forensic pathologist at Greater Baltimore Medical Center who was sitting in court. Thirty years ago, Breitenecker had the foresight to begin freezing and storing semen samples in rape cases, before it was common practice, in the hope that technology would one day be able to link victim to perpetrator.

"If it weren't for him, Mr. Hill would be on the street, and others like him," Levitz said. At that, the courtroom erupted in applause. As the hearing concluded, the judge invited Dr. Breitenecker into his chambers for a chat.

When he emerged, Dr. Breitenecker told reporters he was satisfied with the outcome in Hill's case, "particularly after such a long time." He said he had stored the samples "in the hope that one day something good would come out of it."

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