Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ocala rapist sentenced to life without parole

An Ocala serial rapist was sentenced to life without parole Thursday, September 11 for raping and burglarizing a woman in her home. Craig Branch, 33, was originally offered a 40 year sentence if he had plead guilty to rape. Florida sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of between 11 years and life for someone wi the same criminal history.

Last September, Branch reportedly entered a unit at the Carlton Arms apartment complex through an unlocked sliding glass door. He grabbed the victim - who was checking her messages on an answering machine - by the back of her hair and forced her to an upstairs bedroom, where he made her undress and then sexually assaulted her. He then took two beers from her refrigerator, a bottle of whiskey, several DVDs and her Nextel cellular phone.

Police officers tracked down Branch through the missing cell phone. They found him 100 yards away, back in his own unit in the same apartment complex.

Branch initially denied involvement and said he found the phone on a sidewalk.
DNA tests later revealed a match between the defendant and evidence left on the victim. She testified in court Thursday that since the incident she still has nightmares, doesn't like being home by herself and suffers from emotional trauma.

It goes to show you that if you are guilty and offered a plea deal, take it. The sentence you get for rolling the dice reflects not just the nature of the crime, but the fury at the resources wasted on a tril when there is ample evidence of your guilt.

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