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Belmont Shore Rapist Is Convicted

A Long Beach jury finds Mark Wayne Rathbun guilty of assaulting 14 women in a five-year rampage that gripped the area.

August 11, 2004|Nancy Wride and Jean Paul Renaud | Times Staff Writers

A Long Beach jury Tuesday found Mark Wayne Rathbun guilty of being the Belmont Shore rapist, who committed sexual assaults on 14 women in their homes -- crimes linked by DNA.

The seven-man, three-woman jury reached guilty verdicts in 59 felonies on Tuesday morning, its third day of deliberations. It took two Superior Court clerks taking turns 47 minutes to read the 62 charges and verdicts against Mark Wayne Rathbun.

The jury found Rathbun not guilty of three charges involving the first of two attacks on an elderly Huntington Beach cancer patient. "That was his first visit to the woman's home, and there was no DNA evidence [because] she didn't report it to the police," juror Mike Asfall said.

The jurors were thanked outside the court by a victim who had testified and attended some of the trial. Until Tuesday's verdict, said the woman, 45, "it was impossible" to get over the trauma.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday August 13, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 71 words Type of Material: Correction
Serial rapist -- An article in Wednesday's California section about the Belmont Shore serial rapist's conviction misstated the number of jurors as 10. There were 12. The article also said authorities attributed 29 sexual assaults, including two in Seattle, to Mark Wayne Rathbun. He is blamed for 29 locally, plus two in Seattle. The article also referred to one victim as a Huntington Beach cancer patient. She lives in Long Beach.

Rathbun, who had pleaded not guilty, did not react as the verdict was read.

"We prepared him to handle it stoically. He is stunned," said defense attorney Ed Barrett, who vowed to seek a new trial on grounds that this one was "riddled with errors."

The 14 victims testified -- three older women by videotape -- that they were terrified and traumatized by an intruder who confronted them in the dark wearing a mask but little else, and raped, sodomized or orally copulated them.

Rathbun, 34, will be sentenced Sept. 15. He has been jailed since his November 2002 arrest a few blocks from the 14th victim's home. He faces a minimum sentence of 500 years to life, said the prosecutor, Deputy Dist. Atty. Rich Goul.

The prosecution's case was built on a taped confession and DNA from crime scenes that three labs linked to Rathbun. Barrett and fellow defense attorney Bicka Barlow argued that DNA is imperfect because it is interpreted not by scientists but by "cops in lab coats," as Barlow put it.

Two defense witnesses testified about mistakes and flaws in genetic testing that can lead to errors but never concluded that mistakes had been made with Rathbun's samples.

In Goul's rebuttal last week, he urged jurors not to be blinded by such speculation when the defense's own expert witness conceded that Rathbun's DNA matched that from crime scenes.

The jury also found Rathbun guilty of two special allegations: that the crimes occurred during burglaries and that they resulted in multiple victims. Each allegation carries a life term, Goul said.

Although Rathbun was charged with raping or assaulting 14 women over five years, police and prosecutors believe he attacked 29 women over six years, including two in Seattle a year before the spree began in the Belmont Shore neighborhood of east Long Beach.

The serial assaults gripped the community, where a composite police drawing of a ski-capped man papered shops and restaurants.

Juror Dave Stauffer said Tuesday that the DNA trumped any other evidence the defense presented. "This guy left his DNA all over Long Beach," he said. "That and the fact he confessed to everything."

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