Thursday, April 30, 2009

Man convicted in 'Wooded Rapist' case faces more trials

By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • April 30, 2009 Burdick charged in a dozen rape cases Prosecutors vow they are not finished with Robert Jason Burdick. A Davidson County jury convicted Burdick, 39, on two counts of aggravated rape and one count of aggravated burglary Wednesday for attacking a Donelson woman in her home. He faces up to 56 years in prison when Judge Seth Norman sentences him June 10. This is the first conviction for the man police have charged in at least 12 rape cases in Davidson, Williamson and Wilson counties. "One down, several more to go,'' said Roger Moore, assistant district attorney. In October he will go to trial again for attacking another Davidson County woman. Investigators say the rapes are linked by a common scheme — women attacked near wooded areas on rainy nights by a man with a covered face — and DNA evidence left at many of the scenes. Moore said the DNA in this week's trial solidified the guilty verdict. Victim's actions praised He credited the then 61-year-old victim for her courage and deciding to keep her wits about her throughout the ordeal. After she was raped in November 2007, Burdick ordered her into the shower, but she stood outside the water while he fled. She also ran a cotton swab in her mouth trying to collect his saliva. Her swab was inconclusive but another swab taken at the hospital contained Burdick's DNA. "She is a role model, if there is such a thing, to someone who's been the victim of a crime," Moore said. But defense attorneys criticized the fact that the case was based purely on DNA. "This was certainly a victory for science," said defense attorney Fletcher Long. "We could not overcome the science. We'll get to another trial in the future where the DNA proof may not be this good." Long said it's the beginning of the fight for their legal team. He and John Herbison, an experienced appellate lawyer, have been retained to represent Burdick on all of his cases in Davidson County. Herbison plans to appeal the decision. Burdick was "saddened" by the verdict and knows it's an uphill battle, Long said. "He prays a lot,'' Long said. Sitting behind the woman through much of the trial was Pat Young who believes Burdick is the man who raped her in 1994. Her case has not been set for trial yet. She put her hand on the Donelson woman's shoulder when the verdict was read. She was surprised when the tears started to flow. The Tennessean does not normally identify victims of sexual assault, but Young agreed to be identified and has allowed her name to be used in several interviews. "For women who never encountered him, I'm glad he's convicted," Young said. "I'm glad this trial is over and I'm glad it was a conviction. I hope there are several more to follow.'' After the verdict, Burdick's father got into a scuffle with a news cameraman that he said kicked him outside the courtroom. Later, the cameras were pushed aside while the victim left the courtroom, smiling. Burdick showed no emotion during the trial or when the verdict was read.

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