A St. Mary's County man who has been held in Calvert County since April on robbery charges has been charged with first-degree rape in connection with the attack of a pet store employee in San Souci Plaza, a shopping center in California.

Robert Dwayne Butler, 32, of Great Mills, also was charged with one count of armed robbery, two counts of first-degree assault and one count of theft over $300.

"I'm relieved but I'm wondering are they really going to put him in jail for this?" asked Luz Gonzales, co-owner of Exclusive Pet. Two female employees were attacked as the store was closing on the night of March 13.

According to charging documents filed in District Court in Leonardtown, Butler, masked and armed with a semiautomatic handgun, entered the store and forced the two employees to give up the contents of a cash register and open an empty safe. He ordered one female employee to sit on a couch in an adjacent room with a coat over her head. In another room, he told the other employee to disrobe and fondled her.

The employee left on the couch tried to run out of the room but Butler grabbed her and struck her with a handgun. Then he returned to the other employee and raped her, according to charging documents.

Since April, Butler has been held in Calvert County jail on charges of theft and assault. He is scheduled to go on trial on those charges next week.

Law enforcement officials said Butler was arrested in Calvert County after police officers observed him during an attempted robbery in April at the Fox Run Shopping Center in Prince Frederick. After his arrest, officials obtained Butler's blood samples for DNA analysis in connection with the St. Mary's case.

The analysis, conducted by the Maryland State Police, indicated that Butler's DNA matched the DNA evidence collected after the rape, according to the charging documents.

Early this year San Souci Plaza was plagued by a string of armed robberies and sexual assaults. Shop owners criticized the St. Mary's County sheriff's office for its handling of the investigations.

Gonzales, co-owner of Exclusive Pet, said the attack on her employees led her to install a new alarm system and hire a security guard to open and close the store. The attacks at the plaza, three armed robberies in all, hurt business, Gonzales said.

"But we had customers come in and tell us, `Thank God, they arrested him.' So now they could come back to the store," Gonzales said.

"Thank God for Calvert County police," she said.