An Anne Arundel County jury on Wednesday found a Lothian man guilty on all counts in a home invasion and attempted rape trial related to a late-night break-in at an elderly Mayo woman’s home last summer.
Paul Daniel Harell, 50, was convicted on home invasion, attempted first- and second-degree rape, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and dangerous weapons counts for the Aug. 13, 2021 incident. A jury issued the verdict Wednesday afternoon following five days of testimony, according to a State’s Attorney’s office spokesperson.
No sentencing date was immediately available in online court records on Wednesday. Attempted first-degree rape comes with a maximum sentence of life in prison.
Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said in a statement that “justice was served” by the guilty verdict, expressing thanks to witnesses and Anne Arundel officers who identified Harell’s vehicle, where detectives located a receipt from an urgent care clinic for injuries believed to be from the struggle. The receipt, coupled with the DNA samples, were “crucial evidence,” she said.
“Most importantly, I hope that the brave survivor of this disturbing crime will gain a sense of peace knowing that this individual will face a lengthy sentence,” Leitess said.
As the prosecution began calling witnesses last Thursday, a 74-year-old woman testified that she woke up in the middle of the night and felt a man on top of her, gripping her throat. The woman, whom The Capital is not identifying, said she fought back against the intruder, who attempted to pull her clothes off and threatened to kill her. She also testified she saw the glint of a knife in the dim room, but couldn’t recognize any of the man’s features. He walked away after she activated a medical alert device, which sounded a loud alarm throughout the home, she said during her testimony last week.
Anne Arundel County Police investigators testified they identified Harell as a suspect after a teenage neighbor said he saw a vehicle with “MASKS 4 SALE” written on the back window. A southern district officer later saw the vehicle at a gas station, with Harell in the driver’s seat. Investigators found out Harell worked for a cleaning service and had been in the woman’s house a few days before the attack.
Assistant State’s Attorney Anastasia Prigge presented evidence of Harell’s DNA being detected in a sample taken from under the woman’s fingernails while she was being treated for injuries in the hospital. Prigge argued that his DNA was present because of the struggle, countering claims by Harell’s lawyer, Anne Stewart-Hill, that his DNA was present because he had been in the house earlier that week and interacted with the woman.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela Alban allowed the prosecutor to introduce evidence from two prior rape cases involving Harell, who was convicted in three rape cases in Washington state in the early 1990s. The victims from two of the cases flew to Maryland to testify about their assault at the hands of Harell, which Prigge argued were similar to the August attack.
Jurors were not informed of the third rape conviction, which was not admitted into evidence. On Tuesday morning, Alban asked each juror if they had seen any media coverage of the trial, as Stewart-Hill noted an article in The Capital contained a reference to the third incident.
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Presenting her opening statement Tuesday afternoon, Stewart-Hill told jurors that the prosecution couldn’t prove Harell had been the intruder in the house that evening, and that DNA evidence located on the woman could have been transferred earlier in the week while he was cleaning her house.
Even if jurors determined Harell was the intruder that night, there wasn’t evidence to prove he had attempted to rape the woman, Stewart-Hill said.
Although the woman had testified the intruder attempted to pull her pajama pants down and her shirt up, Stewart-Hill said the trespasser didn’t take off his clothes, try to kiss the woman or say anything that would imply he intended to rape her. She said the woman didn’t tell first responders that the invader attempted to sexually assault her, and that the two Washington state rape cases were different, noting that the victims were significantly younger.
“These are incidents from 30 years ago,” Stewart-Hill said. To convict him, jurors “would have to believe he didn’t change” in that time, she said, noting he had taken the cleaning job to “get his life back on track” after serving his sentence.
Harell waived his right as a defendant not to testify and took the witness stand Tuesday afternoon.
Harell said he returned to Maryland in 2020 to reconnect with family members in Lothian after serving his sentence in Washington for the three rapes. He was originally sentenced in 1994 to more than 16 years in prison, but was ordered to be committed to the custody of state health officials after prosecutors successfully argued he was a sexually violent predator who would likely reoffend, court records say.
Born in Connecticut, Harell said he moved to Maryland as a child as his father, who served in the U.S. Air Force, moved around the country for work. Harell testified that he joined the U.S. Navy in 1991, and worked as an aviation ordnanceman, bringing him to Washington.