A secret doorway in the basement of a Rosedale house led to a torture chamber where two prostitutes were shackled, sexually assaulted and threatened with death, police said yesterday, as they began a nationwide hunt for a suspect in the gruesome attack.
Richard Paul Elliott, a 57-year-old parolee with a longtime and violent criminal record, was charged in warrants yesterday with two counts of kidnapping, two counts of first-degree sexual offense and a handgun charge.
Police issued a nationwide alert describing Elliott and broadcast descriptions of his car, a 1979, rust-colored, two-door Pontiac. Bill Toohey, a county police spokesman, said the FBI was assisting in the hunt.
Elliott is described as white, 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighing 185 pounds, with brown hair and hazel eyes and wearing metal-frame eyeglasses. Police said Elliott -- who served more than a decade in prison for kidnapping and torturing a California teen-ager nearly 30 years ago -- held one of the women captive for five days.
The clandestine dungeon -- described as a dimly lighted room with chains and shackles strung from the ceiling -- was discovered late Thursday afternoon after the two women escaped and pleaded for help in the streets of nearby Hollander Ridge public housing project.
The women were bruised, and one was naked. They had shackles on their necks and ankles. One woman had a rubber ball in her mouth, held in place by elaborate chains, when she escaped. It had been placed there to suppress her screams, police said.
Sylvia McCormick, the neighbor who called police, said she was sitting on her front stoop when she saw the two women coming down the driveway of Elliott's red-brick home.
"My neighbor said, 'I wonder why that girl is wearing a bathing suit,' " McCormick said. "Then we realized the woman was naked."
Both women were shaking and crying after their escape, McCormick said.
The women were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore for treatment by rape crisis experts.
One was treated and released. The other remained in the hospital yesterday. In a private room, she was sitting up in bed eating lunch, her face expressionless and her voice flat. She declined to be interviewed.
Police said Elliott has an extensive criminal record, including the sexual assault and kidnapping in California.
Described by a law enforcement source as a native of Washington state, Elliott first ran into trouble there in 1959, when he was sentenced to a year in prison for theft. In 1968, he was sentenced to 60 years in prison in the kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl from South Lake Tahoe, Calif.
According to newspaper accounts, the girl testified that Elliott and another man took her to a Nevada campsite, where they raped, beat and tortured her. She also said that while she was held, the men dug a hole and told her it would be her grave if she tried to escape.
She escaped a month after her abduction.
Elliott was convicted of escape after he participated in a mass jail break while awaiting trial in the kidnapping. He was captured several weeks after the escape, according to news reports.
Records from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons show that Elliott was paroled in September 1982 after serving 14 years.
He was arrested less than two years later, when he and two accomplices were charged with trying to sell $400,000 in stolen bearer bonds, according to Charles P. Scheeler, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Baltimore who prosecuted the case.
In 1985, Elliott pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen securities across state lines and was sentenced to four years in federal prison. He was given two more years for failing to appear in court in connection with the case.
"He was a recidivist career criminal who had a demonstrated history of dangerous acts and lawless behavior," Scheeler said.
Prison records show that Elliott -- who by then had served time in federal prisons in Leavenworth, Kan., Terre Haute, Ind., Lewisburg, Pa., and Marion, Ill. -- was paroled in June 1994 from the federal correctional institution in Fairton, N.J.
He apparently lived on Long Island until several months ago, when he moved into the bungalow in the 1500 block of Odell Ave. Neighbors said they often noticed him outside mowing the lawn and working in the back yard.
On Pulaski Highway
According to charging document in the current case, a 32-year-old woman told police she was working as a prostitute on Pulaski Highway, near the Baltimore City-County line, about 5 p.m. Sept. 7 when she was approached by a man matching Elliott's description.
After agreeing to perform a sex act for $40, the woman returned with the man to the house on Odell Avenue.
There, the man punched her in the face and then shackled her to a wall. Over the next five days, he periodically returned to the room, which was accessible only after a large picture was moved to reveal a door.
He removed her clothing and beat her with a belt. Later, he twice forced her to perform oral sex on him.
Although he never unshackled her, the man brought her food and water, according to the charging document.
At 1 a.m. Thursday, the second woman, who police said was a prostitute working in the same area of Pulaski Highway as the first woman, was approached by a man fitting Elliott's description, police said.
'Slow death' threat
After the 29-year-old woman went with him to the house on Odell Avenue, the man held a gun to her head and said, "I'm going to kill you, but not this way. It's going to be a slow death," police said.
She was also shackled and forced to perform oral sex. After the man left Thursday afternoon saying he was going to work, the 32-year-old woman freed herself and then freed the second woman.
Witnesses said they saw two women run down the driveway, one naked, chained and shackled, the other in only a T-shirt. The woman in the T-shirt appeared to have been badly beaten and burned on her face, they said.
Richard Ault, a former FBI agent who spent 18 years in the behavioral sciences unit in Quantico, Va., said people who commit sadistic sexual assaults tend to be men who were abused as children in a violent and obscene manner. He said they doggedly seek out victims to obtain sexual gratification and to vent anger.
"They're not crazy. By and large they do not lose touch with reality," he said.
"It's a personality disorder, a trait that they have that they're stuck with."
Pub Date: 9/14/96