A Reston man whose indictment last March prompted Fairfax County police to announce that they had ended their investigation into several rapes in the Reston area, pleaded innocent yesterday to charges that he had raped a Vienna woman and burglarized her house.
Roland Van Thompson, 24, is charged in the Jan. 6 rape of a 37-year-old woman who was attacked in her Vienna town house about an hour after she went to sleep. Thompson was linked to the case after he allegedly pawned two rings that had been taken from the woman's house.
As Thompson's trial began yesterday in Fairfax Circuit Court, deputy commonwealth's attorney V. Britt Richardson declared in opening arguments that the attack "was the perfect crime--except for the defendant's greed."
The woman testified that she could not identify her assailant because she had been blindfolded with a pillowcase and a silk scarf.
She said she awoke about 1 a.m. to find a man standing in the shadows near her bed. He clamped one hand over her mouth and the other around her neck and said, " 'Don't scream or I will kill you,' " the woman said, adding: "At that point, I realized I didn't have a chance."
Defense attorney John Bancroft cited the lack of identification as a major weakness in the case, which hinges primarily on circumstantial evidence involving the sale of her two rings and a few bits of scientific evidence, including a piece of hair found on the woman's bedsheet that crime analysts said matched Thompson's hair type.
What the prosecution called some of its strongest evidence was thrown out by Judge William G. Plummer, who ruled it was obtained with an illegally obtained search warrant.
The prosecution will be unable to introduce at least two other rings allegedly taken in the burglary of the woman's house and the burglary of a neighbor's town house the same night, as well as tools believed to have been used in the burglary and work clothes believed to have been worn by Thompson during the alleged rape. Those items were found when police searched Thompson's car in February, the prosecutor said.
Plummer described the evidence as a "jackpot" but said police had insufficient reason to believe that such materials would have been in the automobile more than three weeks after the rape occurred and thus lacked justification for obtaining a search warrant.
A clerk at a D.C. pawnshop testified yesterday that she bought three rings from Thompson on Jan. 12, six days after the rape. Two of the rings allegedly had been stolen from the woman's house while the third allegedly was stolen from a neighbor's house, according to Richardson.
Thompson is being tried on charges of rape, burglary and burglary with intent to commit rape. The rape charge carries a possible life sentence.
Fairfax County police said last March, after Thompson's indictment, that they were ending their investigation into a series of rapes in the Reston area--one of the most extensive and costly launched by the department in recent years.