Tuesday, February 06, 2007

A judge has sentenced a man to 25 years in prison for the forcible rape of a woman during the summer of 2002

Sara Semelka:

Frederick E. Wills

Frederick E. Wills, 42, pleaded guilty Dec. 5 in the crime. The case against him stalled for several years because Wills had been passing through Columbia at the time of the attack and Columbia police had no link between him and the sexual assault.

"The case was dormant," Boone County Assistant Prosecutor Richard Hicks said. "It really came back to life once we had that CODIS hit."

CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System, is an FBI national database that included a record of Wills’ DNA. In March 2005, that DNA came up as a match for samples collected during the investigation of the 2002 rape.

The victim, a 25-year-old Columbia woman, read a victim’s impact statement in court.

"That night changed me forever," she told Circuit Judge Gene Hamilton. "I can never go back. For years, I have cried myself to sleep at night because of this."

Immediately after the attack, she told the court, it was difficult for her, a single mother, to focus on the care of her 5-year-old son. She said she remains anxiety-ridden and unable to trust or have healthy relationships with men because of the rape. "It’s sickening that he was out of prison at the time he attacked me," she said.

Hicks asked for a sentence of 20 years and said that Wills would have to serve at least 85 percent of whatever sentence was given. The maximum sentence is 30 years or life in prison.

"I have certified copies of all of his priors," Hicks told the court before reading through Wills’ list of felony convictions since 1986. "I believe 20 years is more than reasonable."

Hamilton sentenced Wills to five years more than the prosecutor’s recommendation. Although Wills complained about Public Defender Kevin O’Brien, the judge ruled there was no probable cause to believe the defendant lacked effective representation.

As the judge read aloud the sentence, the victim yelled to Wills, "Have fun!"

Hamilton ordered her to be quiet and continued. But as Wills glared at the victim in her seat, she called out, "Don’t look at me at all!" The judge ordered her to leave the courtroom.

The woman today said Wills "got what he deserved" and that she hopes he "leaves prison in a box," but she still has problems with the way her case was investigated.

On June 19, 2002, the woman said a man, later identified as Wills, approached her car in a Taco Bell drive-through lane. She said at the time he put a knife to her face through the window, forced his way into the car and drove to the parking lot of Ridgeway Elementary School, where he raped her.

The victim said yesterday that she thought the detective who initially handled the investigation assumed she was lying and might have damaged the case by inserting that opinion into police reports.

She said she felt victimized by the police.

"Secondary victimization is a big problem," she said. "You have women that are too scared to come forward. It’s bad enough that you have to come forward, let alone for the people who are supposed to help you not believe you."

But she noted that investigators involved in the case since 2005 had been very helpful.

Illinois convict pleads guilty in 2002 rape


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