Detective's Hunch Led Her to Suspect in Rape

By Candace Rondeaux
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 8, 2007

She had been looking down the barrel of a gun for about two hours. Abducted by two men on her way to work, forced into her car, raped twice, robbed of nearly every cent she had -- she did not know how this would end. But there, in the back seat of her car, as they sped down a road in Southeast Washington, one of the assailants almost looked sorry.

He was talking to her almost as if they were friends, the 26-year-old woman would later tell detectives. Yeah, my mother just died, he said in the same mumbling, deep voice he had used only hours earlier to order her to strip naked. We're going to bury my mama and have a funeral tomorrow, he said.

That comment gave police the break they needed, a break that led to the arrest of one 18-year-old suspect Sunday and another Tuesday. On a hunch, Prince George's County Detective Sherry Prince dialed the Pope Funeral Home on Pennsylvania Avenue SE on Saturday, the day after the rape and carjacking. Yes, Prince was told, a memorial for a 39-year-old woman was scheduled for that afternoon. Yes, the woman had a son who looked to be about 18, the funeral director said.

Soon after the call, Prince was at the back of the funeral chapel peering at a tall, lanky 18-year-old from behind a cracked door as he gave a rambling eulogy. His mumbling voice was barely audible, and he gripped a piece of paper as he spoke. That's when Prince noticed the gleaming gold ring on his middle finger.

"I said to myself, he's got her ring," said Prince, who detailed the woman's account of the abduction in an interview yesterday with The Washington Post. "I couldn't believe it."

The ring was one of many things the assailants took from the woman, who was accosted as she stepped from her car near the Congress Heights Metro station about 8:50 a.m. Friday, Prince said. Gun flashing, one man took her by the arm, swung her around, grabbed her purse and demanded money. When the woman, a single mother raising a child on a modest income in Forestville, said she didn't have any, the men pushed her toward her car.

Get in, they said, as one man jumped behind the wheel and the man with the gun crammed into the back seat of her silver Toyota next to her. They dumped the contents of her purse on the seat and angrily ordered her to give them directions to her home. Just do what I tell you, and I won't hurt you, the man in the back seat told her.

About 15 minutes later, they arrived at the woman's Prince George's home. One man began ransacking the apartment. The other held the gun to her face and said: Take off your clothes. The man with the gun then raped her. The other man ripped drawers out of a dresser before he, too, raped her, Prince said.

They ordered her to get dressed and then pushed her outside and down the stairs to her car. Act normal, the man with the gun told her. Act like you're with us, and you won't get killed, he said.

Back in the Toyota, they peeled out onto the street. The Toyota careened around corners, clipping at least one car along the way. Within minutes, they had arrived at their next destination, a bank ATM about two miles away, where the men ordered the woman to withdraw hundreds of dollars in cash. Then they visited a second ATM in Forestville. We want more, one said.

The three then got back in the car, stopping moments later at a liquor store in Prince George's. There, the men forced the woman to buy them bottles of Mo¿t champagne. On the way back to the car again, Prince said, one of the men made a curious comment: Look at it this way, you helped two young guys have a fun day, and you got your life still.

Next stop: a discount store in the District, where the two men ordered her to buy them electronics and other items, Prince said. A few minutes later, after the man with the gun mentioned his mother's funeral, they pulled up to the Southern Avenue Metro station. Yeah, the man with the gun said, looking the petite woman over, you know, you're a sweet person. We shouldn't have done this to you.

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