2002 rape case resolved, but the victim has died

The Baltimore Sun

A 2002 rape case involving a pregnant Pikesville woman has been resolved with the sentencing this week of a construction worker, but his victim is no longer alive to receive the news.

After pleading guilty to first-degree rape, Michael Wrightson, 27, was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison by Baltimore County Circuit Judge Dana M. Levitz, who suspended all but 40 years.

The victim was seven months' pregnant at the time of the rape in May 2002 and had five children at home. The baby survived the attack, and the woman later had a seventh child. In July 2007, the woman died of cancer, before investigators concluded that her attacker was Wrightson, prosecutors said.

The crime was unsolved until after Wrightson was picked up in another case, an attempted carjacking in August 2004 outside a laundromat in Westminster. In that case, prosecutors said, a young woman who was loading laundry into the trunk of her car was approached by a man wielding a hammer. During a struggle, he dropped the tool and ran off.

Wrightson was arrested nearby and convicted. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with all but eight years suspended. Once jailed at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, his DNA was entered into a state database. Some time later, it was matched to physical evidence from the May 15, 2002, attack in Baltimore County.

In that incident, the woman was walking toward an automated teller machine in the Greenspring Shopping Center about 10:30 p.m. when a man approached, struck her on the back of the head with an object and began to choke her, according to Lisa Fox Dever, one of two assistant state's attorneys who prosecuted the case. The woman passed out.

"When she woke up she was in a car with her hands and feet bound," Dever said yesterday. The woman was sexually assaulted, Dever said, before being dropped off near the Beaver Dam Swim Club in Hunt Valley, less than a mile from the construction company in Cockeysville for which Wrightson worked.

Six months after the attack, the woman, who was in her early 40s, made a rare public plea for help in finding the man who "continued to beat me as I begged for my life." She described how he had gripped her neck "until I lost consciousness."

"I begged him not to hurt me, telling him that I was pregnant and the mother of five children," the woman said during a news conference at Baltimore County police headquarters in Towson. She said she had felt "alone, injured and terrified."

"My pregnancy was complicated following the attack, and my unborn child was also injured," she said. "My baby was then born prematurely."

The short, dark-haired woman, whose name was not revealed, spoke for a few minutes before police released an audiotape of one of two 911 calls made the night the rape occurred. Police said the second 911 call might have been made by the woman's attacker. The caller notified police of a woman being in trouble and needing help behind the swim club.

After the attack, the victim spent several days being treated for head injuries at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, where doctors also prevented her from miscarrying the baby.

Yesterday, Dever described the victim as "a remarkable woman" who did not allow the abduction and assault to "get her down." Dever called it a shame that she did not live to see her assailant plead guilty to the crime.

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