For more than 30 years, she kept it bottled up — all the unspeakable things her next-door neighbor in Silver Spring started doing to her when she was 5. The suicide attempt didn’t get it out of her. Neither did the six-month stay at a mental hospital, nor the nightmares of him showing up suddenly to carry out his threat to skin her alive.
Then her own daughter turned 5 — smiling, laughing, unafraid — a reflection of her own innocence before Christopher Chamblin took it away.
“It caused all the memories and feelings to start seeping out of that dark hole inside myself that I had tried locking them in,” the woman, now 40, told Montgomery County Circuit Judge Marielsa Bernard on Friday, moments before the judge sentenced Chamblin to 25 years in prison.
The term will likely keep Chamblin behind bars for 19 or 20 years — or until about the time of his 70th birthday. “It’s never going to be over,” the woman said in an interview after the hearing, “until one of us is dead.”
Chamblin was convicted of 10 counts of rape and sexual offenses last year. The case stood out because of the age of the victims: The woman and her sister, who was 18 months older, were 5 and 6 years old when the rapes started. The case also stood out for the amount of time that passed: After the rapes, which lasted at least two years, Chamblin moved and appeared to have lived a quiet life for the next three decades in Florida, getting married, raising three children, working at a flooring company.
“He’s not the same person he was when he was 15 years of age,” Ronald Weiner, a clinical social worker who evaluated Chamblin, said at Friday’s sentencing.
Chamblin’s wife, Angela, also spoke. “He has always been a great husband, very supportive,” she said. “He’s the glue that holds our family together. We need him back.”
Starting about 1977, when Chamblin was 14 or 15, he enticed the older girl to his home several times through a variety of means — snacks, chocolate Easter eggs, the promise to watch television. He began raping her, threatening to kill her family if she didn’t comply, according to prosecutors, even showing her a gun and several knives.
Chamblin also lured the younger sister to his home with treats, began raping her and threatened her, too.
The amount of fear he inflicted on the two was incalculable. Terrified that their mother would find their bloodstained underwear while washing their clothes, the younger girl took to burying the underwear in their back yard, digging in the dirt with spoons from their kitchen. She’d often toss the spoons into the holes as well.
The sisters didn’t talk much about it, they said in interviews, referring only in vague terms to what happened when they went to the neighbor’s house. At least one time, the younger girl was forced to watch Chamblin rape her sister.
The girls stayed largely silent about what happened. In 1989, when she was about 18, the older sister went to Montgomery authorities.
At the time, her younger sister had been hospitalized for depression related to the attacks and was not interested in talking about the case.
That changed several years ago, when her daughter turned the age she was at the time of the attacks.
The woman, who lives in Bethesda, cried at night for six months. Her husband persuaded her to see a therapist. Those discussions, and a fear that there were other victims, led her to see a Montgomery police detective, Beverley Then, who built a case in large part around the statements of the sisters.
With her colleagues, Then got a certain level of corroboration. Using a metal detector, they scanned the back yard of the women’s former home in Silver Spring, where they found shards from spoons, prosecutor Deborah Feinstein said in court.
On Friday, the women read from carefully typed statements. The older sister, who now lives in Texas, said she home-schools her three children. “I can’t turn them over to something that might happen to them.”
The younger victim needed to sit while reading her statement, the pages shaking in her hand while her husband kept his arm around her. Chamblin sat about 20 feet away, a blank expression on his face.
“I was so little, and I never stood a chance against him,” she said. “I grew up believing that God hated me. I grew up hating myself.”