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Afraid that her attacker could return

At 82, Arline Mathews would prefer to be spending her time in leisurely pursuits. But her days are full of dread that the man who raped her 22 years ago could soon be released from prison.

August 17, 2009|Carol J. Williams

Arline Mathews' age-spotted hands shake ever so slightly as she sorts through manila envelopes stuffed with police reports, letters and newspaper clippings, the chronicle of a quarter-century-old crime spree arrayed across her dining table.

At 82, the portrait artist, community leader, mother and grandmother should be spending her time in leisurely pursuits, playing golf or bridge or having the kids over.

Instead, Mathews' days are consumed by fear that the man who raped her 22 years ago could soon be released from prison and follow through on threats to kill her.

The files in her dining room recount the battle she fought a generation ago to see Lloyd Anthony Roy punished for shattering her sense of security and her faith in the goodness of people. Recent letters document her new campaign: the fight to block Roy's release from California State Prison, Sacramento in August 2011.

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A beam of light jumped erratically on the walls and ceiling of her bedroom. Roused from the dozing that precedes sleep, she got up to investigate.

The door to her son's old room, usually open, was shut. She turned the handle and gave it a push, but it didn't give. Too groggy to be suspicious, she pushed again, staggering into the room where he waited. He twisted her arm behind her back and shoved her down the hall into her own bed, his knife at her throat. He tied a bandanna tightly across her eyes.

His rambling soliloquy disclosed a penchant for older women. As he spoke of singling them out because they were weak and less inclined to struggle, her mind raced in search of what to say so he wouldn't kill her, how to change herself in his twisted view from a comfortable suburban widow of 60 into someone he might pity.

She told him of being abandoned at a Denver children's home during the Depression, after her parents contracted tuberculosis. She'd seen hard times too.

He wondered aloud how an older woman living alone managed the house upkeep and yardwork. Spotting her chance, she suggested he return to do odd jobs -- starting, on his way out, with putting back the screen he'd removed from the window he'd climbed through into her son's room.

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Mathews still fumes over the L.A. County district attorney's decision 21 years ago to plea-bargain eight rapes attributed to Roy down to three.

"You plea-bargain when you have a weak case, or when you have crimes that only involve property. You don't plea-bargain eight rapes, and who knows how many others, when you've got victims who can testify," she says.

Roy was sent away in 1989 under the state's Determinate Sentencing Law, invalidated two years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court. Under that old law, he won't face a parole board before his release after completing half of his 44-year term.

Mathews' only hope is that, as a sex offender, Roy should be subjected to a psychological evaluation before release, although few are ever held up by that review.

"Everyone says not to worry, that he will be evaluated, that they're almost certain he won't be let out -- almost certain," Mathews says. "The refrain is, 'It's somebody else's department.' Everybody relies on everybody else. It's nobody's responsibility to make sure he doesn't get out."

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"I usually smother my victims," he told her a couple of times during the four hours he spent in her bed.

He didn't take off the blindfold until the end. Her hopes soared: He was buying into the handyman deal. Then panic: He didn't care if she saw his face because she wouldn't be left alive to bear witness.

He went to the kitchen, ordering her to follow. He smoked a cigarette, filled a glass with water and jotted down her number from the wall phone.

When he left, replacing the screen as promised, she waited maybe half an hour before calling an attorney and the police. She was grateful he let her live and felt she owed him something, at least time to get away.

"I was shellshocked," she would recall later. "I think they call it the Stockholm syndrome."

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A civic activist with a history of consumer boycotts, community service and unsuccessful runs for the state Assembly and Congress, Mathews despairs at the lack of response to the most impassioned campaign of her lifetime.

She has written to the district attorney's office, state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, the Department of Mental Health, the Office of Victim and Survivor Rights and Services at the corrections department -- even "Dr. Phil" -- to spotlight what she fears is the imminent release of a man she is convinced will rape and kill again. Only the victim rights office has responded, assuring her she'll be notified if Roy escapes, dies or is freed.

In the salvos she has been firing off for two years now, Mathews demands an end to plea bargains in violent crimes. She wants to know whether Roy's DNA has been compared with samples collected in at least two dozen unsolved cases of elderly women raped and killed in the Greater Los Angeles area before his arrest.

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