Thursday, July 26, 2007

Once raped, robbed and left for dead, a resilient mom who lobbied to expand state DNA laws got some payback with the arrest of her alleged attacker

Scott Shifrel:

Felon Richard Thomas, 41, is now facing rape charges

The fiend accused of assaulting Carol Dickerson in 1996 was also charged with the 2004 rape and beating of a 12-year-old girl.

"I have a lot of faith in the justice system, more than I ever had," Dickerson told the Daily News. "This is like a double bonus. I hope they catch some more people" with the DNA database.

Authorities identified the suspect as Richard Thomas, 41, a convict who allegedly raped Dickerson in Jamaica in 1996. He later raped a Far Rockaway girl in 2004, Queens prosecutors said yesterday.

Thomas was serving three years for grand larceny when lawmakers - thanks, in part, to Dickerson's lobbying efforts in June 2006 - ordered all convicted felons to give DNA samples. He was tested in November and results last month showed his DNA matched evidence from both rapes as well as a Nassau County burglary, authorities said.

"It was probably the most horrific thing that ever happened to me," said Dickerson, 42. "I never thought there would be any closure for this ... to face the person who attacked me and, more than that, see him punished for what he did."

Dickerson was stopped at a traffic light on Aug. 17, 1996, with her then-boyfriend when a man with a stocking mask and a gun forced them out of their car. He put the boyfriend in the trunk and took Dickerson to a field and raped her before throwing her in the trunk as well.

Thomas was in and out of jail for years, but was never charged with the rape. Eight years later, he grabbed the girl just four doors from her home as she walked to a school bus stop, authorities said. Prosecutors said he pulled the child behind some bushes, pulled her dress over her head, punched her repeatedly and raped her. He even stole her $3 lunch money, prosecutors say.

With the rapist unidentified and on the loose, the terrified girl and her family moved in with friends.

"If it had not been for the DNA expansion law enacted in 2006, these cases would have remained unsolved," Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said yesterday.

Even before the Legislature changed the law, prosecutors and detectives found the girl's rape particularly disturbing and stayed in touch with her and continued to track down leads.

"The greatest moment of my career was when I got to tell the father: 'We got the guy who raped your daughter,'" Assistant District Attorney Denise Tirino said. "He broke down in tears."

In deciding to lobby state legislators last year, Dickerson said, "I really thought I was going to help others, I never thought I was going to help myself."

"I am so sorry for that little girl, just 12 years old," she added.

Thomas was ordered held without bail yesterday by Queens Supreme Court Justice Barry Kron. He is expected to be arraigned today on charges of rape, robbery, unlawful imprisonment, criminal use of a firearm and endangering the welfare of a child. He faces up to 50 years in prison.

Arraigned as Queens rape fiend

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