Terry Leon McDonald, dressed in a white prisoner's uniform with tattoos all over his arms, stood up in a Prince William County courtroom yesterday and addressed a woman he had not seen in 14 years.
"Ms. Reeder, Ms. Anne . . . There's not enough that I can say. I am very sorry," McDonald said, speaking slowly and with a slight drawl. "You give me the courage to get counseling. I'm a victim of something myself. I wish I could change. I hope you can accept my apology."
The courtroom was completely absorbed. Anne Heck -- her maiden name is Reeder -- looked back and nodded her head.
Moments later, Circuit Court Judge Leroy F. Millette Jr. sentenced McDonald, 42, to two consecutive life terms in prison for raping Heck, a former Prince William chemistry teacher, the morning of July 26, 1990, when she was pushing her bike along a gravelly road near Haymarket.
McDonald, who was serving time in a West Virginia prison for sexual assault, was caught this year after his DNA was sent to the FBI's national database and matched with genetic material recovered from Heck after she was raped. Without the "cold hit," McDonald could have been released in 2027 after a scheduled parole hearing.
Heck, who for years woke up in the middle of the night with images of her attacker in her head, testified yesterday that she hoped the sentencing would finally give her closure.
Heck, now 40, agreed to tell her story and have her name published to try to help other rape victims through the ordeal.
McDonald, who raped three women before Heck, told the judge that he was "better off locked up in prison until something can be done" to help him and that his predatory impulses were a "cancer that I can't fix." He told the judge that he already had an 80-year sentence and that two more life terms were unnecessary.
His attorney, Michael A. Pignone, told the court that when he first met with McDonald inside the Prince William jail this year, he was expecting to "see an animal" but that McDonald surprised him with his remorse. The rapist's first question was: "How was she?" Pignone said.
But as Millette handed down the sentence on rape and abduction charges, he sternly told McDonald that "you must be incarcerated for the rest of your life. . . . You're a high risk to re-offend."
Fourteen years ago, McDonald escaped from a gang of prisoners working alongside a highway in Taylor County, W.Va. He hid in nearby woods and raped a woman while her daughter was on the phone calling 911. He stole the woman's red Datsun and wended his way to Prince William County.
About 8:30 a.m. July 26, 1990, he saw Heck pushing her red bike on Mountain Road toward Route 15 near Haymarket.
He pulled over, got out of the car and asked Heck for directions. Then, as she was searching for a map, he punched her in the mouth and forced her into the woods, where he raped her.
McDonald then sped off and drove to Ohio and then Florida, where he was arrested in the Datsun on a routine traffic stop. He was extradited to West Virginia.
Yesterday in court, Heck, who traveled from her home in Asheville, N.C., with her husband, Tom Heck, told those in the courtroom how the rape affected her life, pausing several times to regain her composure.
"I was raped in July 1990," she began, looking straight at McDonald, before halting to cry. "While I do not condone Mr. McDonald's act and feel he should receive his just sentence, I have come to accept this as a chapter of my life that has provided me with the potential for my personal healing and development."
She talked about how, soon after she was raped, a volunteer read her Scripture in the hospital to forgive her for her sins and how her parents struggled to comprehend what had happened to their daughter. She recounted the agony of waiting for the results of an HIV test -- it was negative -- and breaking into "uncontrolled tears" when she returned to teaching the following fall at Osbourn Park High School in Manassas. She described how she felt pain in her hips and pelvis for years, a physical reaction to the violent crime.
She recalled how her "dream to feel whole" again was "fulfilled" when she got a call from a Prince William police detective Samson Newsome in January, letting her know that police had found her rapist.
After the hearing, Heck hugged Newsome, who told her, "Congratulations. I am so happy for you."
Yesterday, a handful of Heck's former colleagues from Osbourn Park High came to the sentencing for support.
"I was thrilled. I couldn't believe it, how much time has gone by," Jan Beauregard, a former Osbourn Park teacher, said of learning about the DNA match from Heck this year.
After the hearing, Heck said that seeing McDonald as he entered the courtroom did not "faze" her and that the judge's punishment was "appropriate because I don't think he should be back on the street."
Heck reflected on McDonald's apology, saying, "He focused on all the negatives. That's his choice. That's his choice." Then Heck left the courthouse, followed by her friends and her husband carrying their 13-month-old daughter, Liza.