Woman who lied in rape case now in jail for 4 years

Sunday, September 2, 2007

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- A woman whose lie about being raped kept an innocent man behind bars for almost two years is now in jail herself.

Armand Villasana, 54, was jailed for rape from 1998 until 2000, when his conviction was overturned based on DNA evidence. His accuser, Judith Lummis, admitted Aug. 7 that she made up the rape to cover up an extramarital affair.

The statute of limitations prevented Lummis from being charged with perjury. But on Friday, Lummis, 41, turned herself in after her probation was revoked last week. She will serve a four-year prison term imposed in 1998, when she pleaded guilty to fraudulently attempting to obtain prescription diet pills.

Lummis was put on probation after pleading guilty to the charge in April 1998, with a suspended four-year sentence.

On Sept. 16, 1998, Lummis reported being kidnapped from a Sonic Drive-In, forced to drive to a wooded area and raped. Greene County detectives and prosecutors said she was so convincing they had little reason to doubt her story.

Even Villasana's defense attorney, Gary Wilson, said he believed Lummis was a victim.

"I never doubted that she was raped. I doubted that Armand did it," Wilson said.

Assistant Greene County Prosecutor Jill Patterson, who prosecuted the case, said Lummis was articulate and appeared credible.

"It was pretty amazing," Patterson said. "Any concerns I had about the case were always dispelled by her."

When Villasana was arrested nine days after the supposed rape on an unrelated charge, he became a suspect even though no physical evidence tied him to the crime and Lummis' description of her assailant differed from Villasana in age, height, weight and speech patterns.

But a composite sketch was "freakishly similar to Armand," said Wilson.

And Lummis identified Villasana in what authorities admit was a biased photo line-up -- Villasana was the only Hispanic pictured.

In later months, Lummis remained steadfast in her accusations.

"She was just so adamant and so forceful that it was him," Wilson said. "Looking back at what we know now, she had so many outs ... She could have said, 'Well, maybe it's not him."'

Villasana was convicted Nov. 10, 1999, but freed seven months later.

Lummis continued to insist Villasana was responsible, but her story started to unravel shortly after his release.

Probation violations based on drug use and forgery charges began to pile up, and she filed for divorce in March 2001. In court records, Lummis admitted struggling with methamphetamine addiction.

Her probation was revoked in October, 2002, and she was jailed until May 2003 after spending 120 days in an institutional treatment center. She pleaded guilty to a reduced charge in the forgery case and was sentenced to probation and community service.

Patterson said prosecutors were aware of Lummis' struggle with drugs.

"It is very normal for rape victims to have that kind of downward spiral," Patterson said. "That didn't necessarily put me on notice."

Meanwhile, an automated database search in November 2005 found a match for the DNA profile that freed Villasana in 2000. It took more than a year for the match with a Missouri inmate to be confirmed.

Detective Allen Bayer learned in February that Lummis had filed a kidnapping report -- later found to be false -- in Aurora in 2005 that was similar to the report filed in the Villasana case.

Lummis also faced charges in Christian County for failing to pay child support and two new charges of forgery in Lawrence County. She was arrested March 24 and admitted relapsing on methamphetamine.

But during two interviews with Bayer, Lummis stuck by her story of being raped.

When Bayer met with the inmate whose DNA matched the material gathered from the 1998 rape examination he said he and Lummis had been having a consensual affair. The inmate has not been identified.

Lummis had been cited in June for testing positive for methamphetamine and for lying about where she was living. And her probation officer found she was dating a felon.

But Lummis didn't confess until Aug. 7. Her probation was revoked Aug. 24.

Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.springfieldnews-leader.com

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