Sunday, September 19, 2010

"Shotgun Bandit" sentenced to life for rape, attempted murder of woman

A suburban Dallas-Ft Worth man was sentenced to life for the rapes of two women Thursday, September 16. Stanley Vernell Ledbetter Jr., a Muscogee, OK native and a Plano, TX resident, was sentenced to life for aggravated sexual assault in a April 10, 2007 sexual attack. Jurors took half an hour to convict Ledbetter of aggravated sexual assault and another 20 minutes to assess him the maximum sentence - life with a $10,000 fine.

Testimony opened on September 15 with the then 29 year old's account of the attack.

The woman, who is not being named because she is a sexual assault victim, told jurors she was in her pajamas watching television about 2 a.m. when the glass on her patio door exploded.  "I screamed," she said. "I saw a dark figure coming through the door right at me."

The man, holding a short-barreled shotgun, dragged her by her hair to the bedroom. She testified he made her dump out her purse and turn over hundreds of dollars in cash she had earned from her waitress job. He also forced her to give up her debit card and the personal identification number.
He made her stay in the bathtub as he searched the place. What he was looking for, she didn't know, she told jurors. Then the attacker took her to her bedroom, where he forced her to perform a sex act. If she didn't, he threatened to blow her head off, she testified.
The attacker used zip ties to bind her hands behind her and laid her on the bed. He stuffed a sock into her mouth and held it there with duct tape. Then he covered her face with a pillow and stabbed her three times.
"I couldn't believe this was happening," she said. "The pain was unreal."

The woman said she played dead as he checked her wrist for a pulse. She rolled her eyes back as he lifted each lid to check for signs of life. He removed the sock and duct tape. She said she heard her front door open and then close. She waited about five minutes and then went to her kitchen to try to cut the ties with a knife. When she couldn't free herself, she went to get help.

She met her attacker at the front door. "You didn't think I wouldn't see the kitchen light come on?" she recalled him asking. There was a struggle. She told jurors he pushed her down and stabbed her two more times. He locked the door behind him as he left.

The woman said she lay there for 30 to 45 minutes "to make sure he was gone."

During the trial, Ledbetter's defense attorney attempted to introduce reasonable doubt by sugessting that his client wasn't the one who stabbed the victim. The defense conceded the DNA evidence proved Ledbetter raped the victim. The only defense witness, Denise Ledbetter, was the attacker's mom. She portrayed her son as a devoted son and asked jurors to give him less than life so "That I have more time with my son."

The 2007 attack victim's impact statement followed the penalty phase of the trial, and went like this. "No matter how much pain and anguish you caused, not once would I let you get the best of me. I will never let you steal my strength or my perseverance. ... I'm the reason you were caught. I got you. ... May you rot in jail for life."

During the punishment phase of the trial, jurors got a clearer picture of Ledbetter, known before his arrest as the shotgun bandit because of his choice of weapon in some of the crimes.

A former Garland woman testified about a man breaking into her home through the patio door on June 1, 2005. He forced her to drive to two automated teller machines and withdraw $500 while he sat in the back seat of her Jaguar with a sawed-off shotgun jabbed in her side. "I was petrified," she told jurors.

A former Southern Methodist University student testified under a pseudonym about a man dressed in black and wielding a shotgun who broke into the Dallas apartment she shared with a friend on June 4, 2005. Both were sexually assaulted. A DNA expert testified that trace evidence from the Jaguar's back seat and the Dallas attack matched Ledbetter's DNA.
A 41-year-old woman testified about being sexually assaulted by Ledbetter on Nov. 7, 2005, at her Plano apartment. Several details matched the other attacks.

Prosecutor JoDee Neil told jurors: "There is no why," she said. "This is evil, plain and straight."

First Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis said Ledbetter deserved the maximum of life without parole
"so that no other woman will have to look at Stanley Ledbetter again and fear for her life."
Ledbetter, known as the "Shotgun Bandit," was already serving two life sentences on similar criminal convictions. Ledbetter is suspected in attacks on 7 women that took place between May 2005 and April 2007, and is suspected in at least 19 home invasions. The presiding judge was State District Judge Webb Biard. The convictions, from Dallas County, are under appeal.

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