DNA absolves suspect in rape

The Baltimore Sun

Prosecutors dropped all charges yesterday against a Baltimore man who had been held in the rape and assault of a 59-year-old Roland Park woman last month, a brutal crime that frightened the normally tranquil North Baltimore community.

Charges of rape, armed robbery and conspiracy against Chaz Ricks, 20, were dismissed yesterday afternoon after prosecutors learned that DNA evidence collected at the crime scene did not match Ricks.

No one else has been charged in the crime.

"The investigation is continuing," said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy. "The allegations are very serious and traumatic to this victim, and we are continuing our joint investigation with the Police Department to see that justice is served for this victim."

Police Department spokesman Sterling Clifford said, "We had somebody that appeared to be the most likely suspect. The evidence points in a different direction, so we'll go in a different direction."

Ricks, who has a history of arrests for assaults in the city and Baltimore County, was arrested Aug. 27 after a detective noticed a similarity between Ricks and a sketch of the attacker. The victim also identified Ricks from a photo array.

But an analysis of DNA evidence that came late this week ruled out Ricks as the attacker, Burns said. Jessamy decided to drop all charges after meeting with prosecutors yesterday.

Ricks was expected to be released last night or this weekend from Central Booking, where he has been held without bail since his arrest.

That arrest had calmed some fears in Roland Park after the attack, said Louise Phipps Senft, first vice president of the Roland Park Civic League. "It gave some type of hope, and it provided at least an interim resolution," Senft said yesterday.

To distribute better information about crime in the area, the civic league added a crime log e-mail list this year to its Web site. But the league has faced some difficulty in getting thorough information from police, Senft said. While nuisance crimes are expected, the rape last month was unnerving, she said.

"Of course, we were shocked and deeply saddened," Senft said.

Police said the victim was putting away groceries in her home in the tiny Tuxedo Park section of Roland Park behind Eddie's supermarket about 8 p.m. Aug. 23 when she heard footsteps. She turned around to find two men who had entered through an unlocked front door pointing handguns at her.

The men took $7 from her purse. One man grabbed her, and she fell to the floor and started to lose consciousness, according to charging documents. One man then carried her upstairs to assault her. The woman identified Ricks as the rapist, according to Ricks' defense attorney, Larry Rosenberg.

Rosenberg said he notified Ricks' grandmother that the charges had been dropped and he was being released. "She's thrilled," he said.


Anyone with information is urged to call Metro Crime Stoppers at 866-756-2587 or the Baltimore Police sex offense unit at 410-396-2076. Callers to Crime Stoppers may remain anonymous.

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