Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wooded Rapist guilty in rape of 16 year old girl - Davidson County won't prosecute any more cases

(Original Post 5-6-08)
Nashville, Tennessee police have caught a suspect whom they believe to be the Wooded Rapist, a sexual predator who has attacked at least 14 women on their wooded homes. Robert Jason Burdick has a criminal record going back to 1998 for rape, and authorities are trying to link him with other unsolved rapes in the area.

Pat Young, the Wooded Rapist's first victim, remembers her attack and hopes that

She said she remembers her attack like it was yesterday. "At home asleep in your bed is supposed to be the safest place you are. Well, that's where I was at, home asleep in my bed," she said.

Young was able to bite her attacker and give police DNA, which they said matches Burdick’s.
But Young said she does not believe her attacker was just getting started.

"You have to wonder where he started. We're the first case that we know of, but were there more that went unreported?" she said.

Sources close to the case said Burdick was sent to Spencer Youth Center for Juvenile Offenders. "I think he's been doing this for a very long time. I know there are cases directly related through DNA. I suspect there are others where there is other evidence and if they can tie it to him, good," Young said.

Burdick has been charged with five counts of aggravated rape and more charges are pending. Sources say that Burdick spent time in juvenile detention and was arrested on assault charges involving a possible girlfriend at age 17.

(Update 10-19-09) The Wooded Rapist suspect was found not guilty of the aggravated rape of Pat Young, but was found guilty of attempted aggravated rape. Robert Jason Burdick, 39, still faces between 8 and 12 years for his attack on Young back in 1994. Burdick has been sentenced to 32 years in prison for the rape of another woman and faces 11 more trials.

The issue that prosecutors failed to prove to the Davidson County Jury was whether Burdick's hand entered Young's vaginal area during the attack, not whether there was an attack. "I don't mind not being raped. Tonight, I'll be with my friends and he goes back to the big house."

Young has been willing to share her name and show her face for the same reason she has reached out to other alleged victims of Burdick, the man police call the "Wooded Rapist."

"This shouldn't be embarrassing for the victims," Young said. "We should be looking at the perpetrators. They take people's souls to empower themselves."

Young was looking at Burdick carefully throughout the trial. She stared at him often during her time on the witness stand. She noticed he would not meet her eyes.

"He looks so dead ordinary," she said. "Put him in a suit and he's a banker or a lawyer. Put him in scrubs and he's a doctor. Put him in a shirt with his name on it and he's a technical guy. There's nothing to say there's evil there."

Defense attorneys cited the failure to prove the most serious charges as a small victory for their client. According to Fletcher Long, "anything other than the charged offense in a high-profile case like this is an achievement. He has been obliterated in the war of public opinion, and if the jurors came in tainted, it wasn't in the defendant's favor."

The defense will appeal based on the theory that only a "John Doe" DNA profile was issued an arrest warrant, not their client by name. Attorney Carrie Gasaway stated "It could very likely be the outcome for Mr. Burdick that there is no conviction on this charge."

Meanwhile, prosecutors are more circumspect, because there are numerous trials to go, and that even though they obtained a conviction for lesser charges that aggravated rape, a conviction is a conviction.

Prosecutor Dan Hamm stated that "Quite frankly we understand that reasonable people could find either way. We were just hoping that the emotions wouldn't be so strong they wouldn't be able to make a decision." His colleague Roger Moore said that  "We will try each count as we get to it. That's our philosophy at this point."

(Update 5-28-10) WIlliamson County, TN jurors found Burdick guilty May 20, 2010 of aggravated and especially aggravated rape in an attack on a then 16 year old girl, Elizabeth "Zea" Miller. Burdick broke into her Brentwood, TN townhouse, kidnapped her and took her at gunpoint to a garage where he raped her. Burdick faces 15 to 25 years when he is sentenced July 13, something that the victim wants.

 "I would love just for my own personal edification to have him be sentenced at the maximum. I have to live this to the fullest and so does he. I don't get to escape out of this any earlier in my life so neither should he. I would love to see two 25-year sentences served consecutively."

[Willamson County District Attorney Kim]Helper called eight witnesses to the stand, including Miller, her mother, detectives working the case and Qadriyyah Debnam, a forensic scientist who worked with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at the time of the rape. She told jurors that she found sperm in Miller's underwear that were a match to Burdick's DNA.

Burdick's next trial will be in Wilson County, where he will be tried on aggravated and especially aggravated rape charges for an attack on hie ex-"girlfriend's" niece who he used to babysit. After that trial, the sexual predator will return to Williamson and Davidson Counties for more rape trials.

(Update 9-4-10) Burdick was sentenced to 50 years imprisonment and a $60,000 fine in a Nashville courtroom July 13, 2010 for Miller's rape. If Burdick had took the plea deal he was offered, he would have only received 20 years maximum. Judge Timothy Easter gave Burdick 2 consecutive 25 year sentences for aggravated and especially aggravated rape.

Davidson County prosecutors have retired the remaining seven cases against Burdick in a cost saving measure.

Metro Assistant District Attorney Roger Moore said putting Burdick on trial would waste taxpayer dollars, and he said the remaining five victims agreed the cases could stop. "Lightning may strike the prison, and he may escape, but we are not dealing on possibility. We are dealing with what has been done," Moore said.

Judge Seth Norman agreed to the prosecutor's request, but two other Tennessee counties still plan on trying Burdick on more rape charges. Williamson County District Attorney Kim Helper is scheduled to prosecute two more Wooded Rapist cases. "Victims do have a say in this state, and the victims very much … have the right to face offenders in court,"  she said.
Wilson County plans to try Burdick on aggravated rape and especially aggravated kidnapping of a child beginning March 28, 2011. Tom Swink, Wilson County, TN assistant DA, said "While our office believes that Burdick's convictions and sentences will stand on appeal, nothing is certain, and we will proceed as planned with Mr. Burdick's Wilson County prosecution."

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