Women testify about Kansas City rapes from 1980s

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two women testified Monday about someone sneaking into their homes in the middle of the night, blindfolding them and raping them in the 1980s as the trial for a man accused of attacking them and two others got underway.

The women both testified that they didn’t see their attacker or a weapon, but he told them he had a gun and threatened to kill them.

“My thoughts were trying to think of some way, number one, not to be killed, and number two, to get him to not do anything,” one of the women testified about the assault in her home in Kansas City’s Waldo neighborhood in 1983. The court asked that the victims not be identified, and The Associated Press does not usually name victims of sexual assault.

The women testified on the first day of a trial of 53-year-old Bernard Jackson, who has pleaded not guilty to several charges of rape, sodomy and robbery in the attacks from 1983 and 1984. The trial is expected to last at most two weeks.

Jackson was arrested after five rapes were reported in the same area of Kansas City from September 2009 to February 2010. He was charged in two of those attacks, and prosecutors said DNA also tied him to the earlier ones. He has pleaded not guilty in regard to the recent attacks as well, and a trial has not yet been scheduled on those charges.

In his opening statement to the jury, assistant Jackson County prosecutor Ted Hunt described how four women were attacked in their homes in the middle of the night in the 1980s. All lived alone. He said they were tied up, and most were gagged before they were raped. Hunt said when prosecutors reopened the cases last year, they found DNA taken from sperm and hair samples at the crime scenes matched Jackson’s.

“All point back to one source, one man, Bernard Jackson,” Hunt told the jury, which has been sequestered for the trial. “He took many things from these women, but he left some things behind. What he left behind is proof.”

Jackson, who sat quietly in court at the defense table, has spent several years in prison for sexual assault and was paroled in 2008. He was living in a prison work-release center in Kansas City when he was arrested in May 2010.

Earlier Monday, another victim testified about a July 1983 attack, saying she was asleep and woke to a man crawling on her bedroom floor. She said she “froze” in fear before she was raped.

“I was just so scared. I feared for my life,” she said, appearing to be near tears.

In her opening statement, public defender Carie Allen said she would not dispute that the women were sexually assaulted. But she also pointed out frequently during cross-examination that none of the women got a good look at her attacker and none saw a weapon.

“Once you were blindfolded, you were never able to see the man at all?” Allen asked one of the victims, who said that was accurate.

Allen also questioned the reliability of the DNA tests, saying some of the evidence taken from the women’s homes has “been lost, destroyed, missing.”

“I’m not actually sure they know what happened to everything,” Allen said. “The bottom line is crime labs do mess things up.”

The two other rape victims were expected to testify Tuesday, along with police officers and medical professionals who treated the women after the assaults.

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