Thursday, October 15, 2009
'Wooded Rapist' trial testimony: Victim's bite took piece of attacker
Defense questions whether a rape occurred in 1994 case By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • October 15, 2009 Patricia Young bit down on her attacker, knowing a piece of him could be the only shred of evidence he would leave behind. She was biting his hands, because it was all she could reach. But when she ripped off a piece of his fingertip, she knew it could help police identify the man who broke into her home in the middle of the night. Fighting on the floor, she pulled the bit of flesh from her mouth and put it under her bed. Nearing exhaustion, she knew she was about to be raped. But suddenly, he gave up and left. "I never did know why he quit when he finally had me where he wanted me," she said. Fingerprint experts would later match the ridges on the skin to the right ring finger of Robert Jason Burdick, 39, who is now already convicted in one rape and charged with a dozen more in Middle Tennessee. His attorneys are not arguing whether it was Burdick, the man police call the "Wooded Rapist," who broke in and attacked Young, but whether the charge of aggravated rape fits the crime. The Tennessean does not typically identify sexual assault victims, but Young has allowed her name to be used since Burdick's arrest in 2008. Young testified that during a lapse in the fight, when both were breathing heavy and trying to recover, Burdick put his hands up between her legs and his hand entered her body. Defense attorneys say that was a detail she never told police, and that she said repeatedly that she was not raped. "I didn't feel raped at that time," Young said. "(A penile rape) was my only fear that night." Tennessee law says that any forcible penetration, however slight, constitutes rape. Young said that though she is an attorney, she never tried rape cases and she didn't know the legal definition. Police officers initially reported it as an attempted rape case, also unsure whether what happened to Young constituted penetration. Defense: It wasn't rape Fletcher Long, Burdick's attorney, said he doesn't plan to question the DNA, or whether Young was victimized. He just doesn't believe a rape occurred. "Don't get lost in the deluge," he told a Davidson County Criminal Court jury. "This case is about the extent of what happened, not who was there." Young had been asleep in her Franklin Road home in the early hours of March 1, 1994, after a long day of work. She felt something on her back and thought it was her cat. But when she turned, she saw a face that DNA would tell investigators 14 years later belonged to Burdick. Pantyhose made him unrecognizable. He told her to put her hands on her head. "It was an instant, horrifying moment because you know exactly what's about to happen," Young said. Feeling herself trapped, she began to scream. She felt another burst of terror when she realized the man already had no pants on. She looked around the bedroom and evaluated her options: There was a phone on the floor, and a handgun in the top drawer. She knew he could wrestle the gun from her, and that she'd never get time to make a call. So she bit, hard, at anything she could, and she continued to bite through a frenzy of blows that saw them both tumble to the floor. She dabbed at her eyes as the 911 tape played, and she heard herself telling the dispatcher about what happened. Burdick leaned forward on his hands, watching her intently. Young firmly met his gaze. Young's case is the oldest of Burdick's charges, and the case that led to the DNA profile of a John Doe that was indicted for the crime so the statute of limitations couldn't run out before they found the suspect. She was asked if now, after watching him so many times in court, did she recognize Burdick from that night. "I recognize him from his DNA," she said.
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