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Long Beach Rape Trial Goes to Jury

In closing arguments, the prosecution says the DNA evidence is solid, while the defense calls it circumstantial.

August 05, 2004|Nancy Wride | Times Staff Writer

Both sides in the Long Beach trial of an accused serial rapist made their closing arguments Wednesday, with the prosecution calling the defendant's DNA evidence and taped confession "incontrovertible" while the defense deemed it "circumstantial" and the admission "bullied."

The jury in the trial of Mark Wayne Rathbun, charged with sexually assaulting 14 women over a five-year span in Long Beach, Los Alamitos and Huntington Beach, will begin deliberations this morning. Because so many of the attacks occurred in the Belmont Shore area of east Long Beach, the assailant was dubbed "the Belmont Shore rapist."

And that is what Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Rich Goul called Rathbun, 34, who faces 62 counts of rape, burglary, sodomy and other sex crimes.

For five years, before Rathbun's arrest in November 2002, Goul told the jury, "horror" gripped coastal Long Beach as women -- many older or elderly, one a cancer patient with a colostomy bag who was raped twice -- were attacked alone in their homes.

Although the rapist wore a mask or shirt to conceal his face and socks or gloves on his hands, he left DNA evidence, Goul said.

The prosecutor held up large photographs only the jury could see of each victim and recounted the crime. In each case, he cited the lab that identified the DNA as that of Rathbun and the high odds against the lab being wrong.

A woman was sodomized in September 1998 while her infant grandchild lay sleeping in the next room, Goul said. As Rathbun raped another woman, Goul said, she recited the Lord's Prayer and "like a broken record" repeated "deliver us from evil, deliver us from evil."

Likening the last attack, Nov. 7, 2002, to something out of "a horror movie," Goul said that victim looked out her bathroom window and spotted a man. She locked her bathroom door but the man kicked it in. They fought and she kicked him, and she later recalled biting his right hand or finger.

That bite became a focal point of defense attorney Ed Barrett, who said the puncture wound police discovered on Rathbun when he was arrested a few blocks away was not the type the woman would have inflicted, given the ferocity she described.

Barrett also told jurors that Rathbun's "so-called confession" was nothing more than the statement of an "unsophisticated" and exhausted defendant under interrogation.

He said the taped portion of Rathbun's interview began hours into it.

Barrett and co-counsel Bicka Barlow impugned the DNA evidence as only as good as the humans who "interpret it" and defined it therefore as "circumstantial."

"Something's wrong here, folks," Barrett told jurors.

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