Saturday, April 24, 2010

AM Rapist gets 75 to life for attacks on San Diego area women

The AM Rapist, a man who terrorized San Diego area women between 2000 and 2001, will never hurt another woman again. He was sentenced to 75 to life yesterday in San Diego Superior Court by Judge Kerry Wells, who commended the victims for their perseverance. Judge Wells stated that she "hope[d] that you all know that what the defendant did to you does not define you. How you handled it defines you. What happened to each of you is every woman's nightmare. You all suffered an unimaginable trauma. You all fought to survive in your own way. I'm in awe of that."

The judge added: “There’s no question he deserves to die in prison.”

Authorities attributed a series of rapes that occurred from June 2000 to February 2001 in Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and the College Area to a suspect they dubbed the “A.M. Rapist.” The victims — all women in their mid-20s according to prosecutors — were awakened by an intruder who choked, fondled and raped them.

Each attack occurred in the pre-dawn hours, earning the sexual predator his nickname.

Eventually, DNA evidence linked [now 34 year old Stephen]Richardson, a former Navy man who had been stationed in San Diego at the time, to each of the crimes. According to court documents, Richardson was discharged from the Navy for psychological reasons and returned to the Chicago area in March 2001. At the time of his arrest, he was married, had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and worked in a management position at company earning $70,000 per year.

Richardson was arrested in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights last summer, and plead guilty to five counts of rape last month on the 12th. In addition, he is suspected of a sixth rape of an Arlington Heights woman who was sexually assaulted July 29, 2003, at 4AM. That DNA profile came back positive for a match with the other 5 assaults. Charges haven't yet been filed in that case, but the investigation is still continuing.

In court, with all five of his victims looking on, he claimed that  depression, loneliness, and lack on control led him to burglarize and rape, and also led to attempted suicide by drug overdose.

“I was on a destructive path with nothing to lose,” Richardson said. “Today I’ve lost everything that has ever mattered to me...What I have done to each of you has haunted me over the years. I always felt that I was living on borrowed time, but I can’t change the past.”

Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth McCluthchey called Richardson a "wolf in sheep's clothing" because the sex predator appeared to the outside world to be a family man and an upstanding member of the military. Her assessment was seconded by Richardson's wife, who said in a statement submitted to the court that she had been "lied to, deceived and betrayed."

This was seconded by two victims who chose to make an impact statement.

"Stephen Richardson almost killed me, and the assault was the worst thing I've ever gone through in my life. Perhaps [he]will come to realize how devastating his actions were."

A second woman believes that she's being watched whenever she goes to the grocery store, and worries for the safety of her daughter.

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