Cape man found guilty of 2004 rape

Thursday, February 7, 2008

After nearly four hours of deliberation Wednesday, a jury of five men and seven women decided that Samuel Taylor, 30, of Cape Girardeau, was guilty of a forcible rape committed in 2004.

The jury voted Taylor not guilty of the first-degree robbery charge he'd been facing.

The rape and alleged robbery had gone unsolved until a DNA test three years later linked Taylor to the crimes.

Circuit Judge William L. Syler set the sentencing hearing for March 31. He faces up to life in prison.

The 62-year-old victim testified Tuesday and Wednesday that she had been walking home from a friend's house on Ranney Avenue in Cape Girardeau during the early morning hours of March 12, 2004, when she was attacked.

She testified during direct examination by prosecutor Jack Koester that she was struck in the head and knocked unconscious. When she woke up, she could feel her assailant on top of her, she said, but when she began to plead for her life, he struck her again, knocking her out. The second time she regained consciousness, she said her purse, shoes and undergarments were gone.

During cross-examination, Taylor's public defender, Amy Metzinger, asked the victim if she had left later than her roommate that evening to walk home because she was looking to buy drugs, which the woman denied, saying she had never used drugs.

A physician at Southeast Missouri Hospital testified during cross-examination that he did not screen the victim for drugs because her demeanor did not indicate that she had been on drugs. He also testified that a pelvic exam revealed three tears to her genital region but no semen was found during the exam.

Cape Girardeau detective Debi Oliver, who investigates sexual assault crimes, testified that the victim had suffered lacerations to her forehead and left cheek, and her knees and ankles were scraped and bleeding, as though she had been dragged.

During an interview with Oliver and another officer, Taylor denied recognizing pictures of the victim.

He told police that she may have looked like someone from the neighborhood near Fountain, William, Middle and Good Hope streets, but that he didn't think he knew her.

When asked if he might have had sex with her, Taylor said he might have had consensual sex with her after offering her drugs, Oliver testified.

He called the exchange of sexual favors for drugs "tricking off" and said it would have been the only way he would have had sex with an older woman like the victim, she testified.

Oliver also showed the victim an eight-man photo lineup, and she identified a man as her attacker that was not Taylor, saying she had seen him five times around her neighborhood. Oliver provided her with a cell phone so she could make contact with police in the case she should see him again.

Diane Higgins, a criminalist, testified that the dress the victim wore the night of the attack had a stain on the back that lab tests later revealed to be semen.

Jason Wyckoff, a DNA analyst at the Missouri State Highway Patrol crime lab, testified that a DNA profile taken from the semen sample and a sample provided by Taylor were entered into a database that gives a statistical match. Only one out of 6.788 quadrillion people would have profiles matching that closely, Wyckoff testified.

On cross-examination, he said the numbers only tell part of the story and do not explain when the semen stained the dress, nor whether it was a result of rape.

Metzinger said in her closing argument that the evidence presented left "almost innumerable questions," and that the rape and robbery did not happen.

"It is no wonder more women don't report rapes," Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said during his summation.

Swingle referred to the defendant's insinuation about the sexual act occurring as payment for drugs as "sliming by a scoundrel."

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 245

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