Advertisement
Crime

Trial begins for Anne Arundel man in assault, attempted rape of 74-year-old woman in Mayo

The prosecution started calling witnesses in a jury trial for a man who police said broke into a 74-year-old Mayo woman’s home last August as she slept and attacked her with a knife before attempting to rape her.

The woman testified Thursday morning that she fought back after awaking to the feeling of a hand against her neck and a man’s body above her. During the struggle, the man told her to be quiet and threatened to kill her as he held a knife, she said. He attempted to remove her pajamas, but she kept fighting.

Advertisement

“That intruder picked the wrong person,” Assistant State’s Attorney Anastasia Prigge said during opening arguments at Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. “She’s 74, but she’s in good shape.”

The woman, who lives alone, was able to get the intruder out of the house by pressing her medical alert device, which sounded a loud alarm in her house, she testified. The intruder then walked out “eerily calm,” Prigge said. The woman suffered several injuries, including a cut to the leg, during the Aug. 13, 2021 attack.

Advertisement

If convicted, Paul Harell, a 49-year-old identified by police as the attacker, will face a possible life sentence. Harell previously has been convicted of raping three women in Washington state in 1992 and 1993. Police noted those three rapes involved Harell using an edged weapon while the women were asleep.

Breaking News Alerts

Breaking News Alerts

As it happens

Be informed of breaking news as it happens and notified about other don't-miss content with our free news alerts.

Two of the victims from those cases, as well as a prosecutor, will be traveling across the country to testify, Prigge said during opening arguments.

Police identified Harell after speaking with a teenage neighbor who said he had been sitting on his porch and noticed an SUV that had “MASKS 4 SALE” written on the back window. Another officer found the vehicle at a Royal Farms in Deale, and spoke with Harell, who said he worked for Cleaning Maid Easy, a cleaning service which the woman used. Investigators later discovered that Harell had cleaned the woman’s home earlier in the week, Prigge said.

Harell’s DNA was found under the woman’s fingernails on both hands. When questioned by police, Harell said he didn’t know the Edgewater area, of which Mayo is a part, despite recently having been in the woman’s home, Prigge said. She also said an FBI investigator will testify the bureau traced Harell’s cellphone to a tower in the Edgewater area that night. Harell said he was sleeping in his car at a park and ride in the Lothian area, as he was homeless.

Harell “unequivocally denies” breaking into the home and assaulting the woman, his lawyer, Anne Stewart-Hill, said in a court filing. Stewart-Hill did not make an opening statement Thursday morning.

Harell has filed several handwritten motions in court on his own accord, including asking to replace his public defender, saying she refused to investigate further into other suspects and evidence at his request. He also asked to serve as a secondary attorney during the trial. Those requests were denied. On Thursday, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela Alban denied another request by Harell to exclude evidence from his previous convictions.

He is charged with home invasion, attempted first- and second-degree rape, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and carrying a dangerous weapon with intent to injure.

The trial is expected to last four days, concluding on Tuesday. The Anne Arundel Circuit Courthouse will be closed on Monday in observation of Juneteenth. The lawyers spent all of Wednesday selecting 12 jurors and two alternates, wrapping up at about 7 p.m.


Advertisement