A Maryland man suspected of stalking women in Virginia and currently imprisoned for a 1997 attempted abduction was sentenced to 14 months today in a separate case after accepting a reduced charge of unlawfully wounding a woman in Prince William County.
Darrell D. Rice, 37, of Howard County, Md., entered an Alford plea in a Manassas, Va., courtroom, where he was on trial for a 1996 attack on Carmelita B. Shomo.
The Alford plea means that the defendant in a criminal case does not admit the offense but acknowledges that there is sufficient evidence to convict him. The plea deal in which Rice was pronounced guilty of unlawful wounding came after the prosecution and defense agreed on a reduction of the original abduction charge.
The 14-month sentence that was imposed today is to be served concurrently with an 11-year sentence that Rice is already serving and will not give him any new prison time. Rice was convicted of trying to abduct a female bicyclist in Shenandoah National Park in 1997.
Yesterday, Shomo, 47, wept and frequently covered her face with her hands or a white cloth as she testified about an attempt to abduct her as she was driving near Manassas. She told the court she was "100 percent" certain that Rice was her attacker.
Shomo pointed at the former computer technician, who was seated a few feet away in Prince William County Circuit Court. Rice, dressed in light khaki pants and a red button-down shirt, looked straight ahead.
"That's the guy right there. He attacked me," said Shomo, glaring at him for a few moments before turning away.
But under cross-examination, Rice's attorneys brought up a name that has been hovering around the case since Rice was charged.
Shomo was asked whether she remembered telling private investigators in 2003 that Richard M. Evonitz -- a serial killer who committed suicide in 2002 after being implicated in the 1997 slayings of three Spotsylvania County girls -- attacked her and that she wanted to keep his photograph.
"Did you tell them that you wanted to keep it to have closure about what happened?" defense attorney Claire Cardwell asked. "Did you tell them, 'That's him. . . . I remember his eyes'?"
"No," Shomo said.
Rice has been accused by authorities of being the notorious Route 29 Stalker, a man who flagged down or attempted to flag down dozens of women driving along that highway between Prince William and Madison counties in February and March 1996.
Alicia Showalter Reynolds, 25, a Johns Hopkins University graduate student who was last seen driving along Route 29, was found slain, and authorities believe the Route 29 Stalker killed her. Neither Rice nor anyone else has been charged in her killing.
On the first day of trial Monday, prosecutors changed their strategy and decided not to link Rice to the other Route 29 stops.
Rice was originally charged with abduction and robbery in the Feb. 23, 1996, attack on Shomo on Route 234 and faced life in prison if convicted. His sentence in the Shenandoah Park attack expires in less than two years.
Yesterday, Shomo recalled the attack step by step, occasionally struggling to keep her composure and at one point requesting a cup of water from a sheriff's deputy. She told jurors that after she saw a male driver flashing his lights behind her, she pulled to the side of the road because she thought it was someone she knew. The man told her that sparks were coming from underneath her car, making it unsafe to drive.
Then, she said, as the man was driving her home, he grabbed her by the hair, shoved her head into his lap and demanded her purse. He then hit her with what felt like a screwdriver. Then she lunged out the door but was tangled in the seatbelt and was dragged for several feet before the driver fled.
"I was thinking about my kids and my family. I thought it was my ending. I thought if I don't get away from him, there could be more," she said before clasping her hands around her mouth.
Shomo also testified that a Prince William County police detective approached her in April 2002, six years after her attack. Rice became nationally known at that time after he was charged in the killings of two female hikers in Shenandoah National Park. Those charges were eventually dropped when DNA evidence surfaced that was not his.
She said that the detective came to her office with a series of photographs and that she immediately selected Rice's picture. She said the session caused her to cry and leave work.
Defense attorneys tried to undermine her credibility. Under cross-examination, Shomo said she could not remember telling authorities slightly different details when the case was first being investigated. When Cardwell asked whether she recalled telling investigators that the man wrapped his arms around her neck, she said she could not remember.
She also denied that she had been arrested in North Carolina, where she used to live, on seven counts of writing "simple worthless checks," even though defense attorneys introduced records showing that she had. The information prompted several jurors to grin or shake their heads.