The Washington woman remembers being troubled by poor lighting and lax security in the parking lot of her apartment complex, fearing it invited crime.
Several of the bulbs were burned out, she said. She could never seem to find the building guard, except in the lobby, and it always bothered her to have to walk so far from her car to the building alone.
On the night she was raped, her misgivings came back to haunt her.
Now, a year and a half after a stranger grabbed her at gunpoint in the parking lot of South Four Towers, the woman is in the midst of a $3 million civil lawsuit against the owners of the complex and the management and security firms she alleges neglected her safety.
The case also has raised questions about the adequacy of training for the Washington area's low-paid, high-risk private security force workers.
In a courtroom twist, her convicted assailant, who says poor security at the site made it "an easy place" to rob and rape not only her but others, has corroborated her accusation that a security guard looked in the direction of the stolen car where the two were sitting, then turned away.
In Arlington Circuit Court testimony this week, the guard, on his first security job less than three weeks at the South Four Mile Run complex, denied seeing anything. The woman says "he looked right at me, he was right at the bumper." The rapist says he planned only to rob his victim, but decided to assault her sexually after the unarmed guard left the scene.
Attorneys for the apartment owners and two security companies involved in furnishing the guard have declined comment except to deny any negligence or responsiblity in the attack.
"I complained and complained about the lack of security precautions, but it just didn't seem to do any good," the woman, 24-year-old office worker, said in an interview yesterday. "It could have all been avoided."
In the traumatic aftermath of the incident, according to court testimony, the woman suffered nightmares. Within 10 days of the rape, her husband moved out, saying he couldn't cope with a wife who had become "cold and very drawn . . . she was a different person." A divorce is planned. She is now under psychiatric care, still trying to put the whole episode behind her.
Named as defendants in the suit are owners of the complex: Colonial Managment Inc., the firm that managed it; and Glen Maggard & Associates, Inc. and the Atlantic Security Agency, Inc., firms that provided and trained the buildings' security guards.
"A security guard company can hire anybody off the streets," said Charles S. Cox Jr., the Alexandria attorney representing the woman. Under Virginia law, he complained, a guard needs only 12-16 hours of security training to receive a permanent license and may work up to 120 days before he needs to complete even that requirement.
John H. Peterson, the 21-year-old guard on duty that night of the June 4, 1979, rape, has testified he had no training when he began his security job. A high school dropout, he was earning $3.10 an hour.
The rapist, Jerry D. Jenkins, has confessed to abducting another woman from the same parking lot, raping her and shooting her male companion. Though the incident happened just a few months before the second parking lot assault, his later victim says she was unaware of it. She had, however, complained when her car was vandalized three times.
Cox, her attorney, claims the property owners and managers had earlier switched from armed to unarmed security "to save money." But the unarmed guard, who carried a flashlight and Mace that night, "could have come over and at least tapped on the window to see if everything was all right. Or he could have called the police," he suggests.
The case, which is being heard by a jury of seven, is expected to conclude next week. Jenkins pleaded guilty to the second South Towers rape and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He is currently serving another 40-year sentence for rape in Maryland.