By Jack Stephens
Published in News on March 21, 2004 2:05 AM
A courageous elderly woman fought off an attacker last summer and then testified that he also had raped her in her Goldsboro home of more than 50 years.
DNA evidence collected from the 76-year-old victim proved that the 35-year-old suspect had committed the crime to the exclusion of all others in the world.
After hearing that evidence, a Wayne County Superior Court jury needed only 29 minutes to convict the suspect, David Carl Cartwright of Brentwood Drive, Dudley, of five serious crimes -- first-degree rape, a first-degree sex offense, first-degree kidnapping, armed robbery and breaking and entering.
Cartwright was sentenced Thursday afternoon by Judge Jerry Braswell of Goldsboro to 45 to 55.5 years in prison.
The defendant could have had a 28-year sentence, if he had accepted a plea bargain. But he rejected the offer against the advice of his lawyer, Carroll Turner, and wanted a trial.
Prosecutors said the woman had an alarm system at her home, but she had turned it off after awakening at about dawn June 14. The suspect barged inside at about 6:45 a.m., tried to strangle her with a towel and then tried to suffocate her with a pillow.
The woman was bruised and scratched, but "she put up a tremendous fight," said Assistant District Attorney Jan Kroboth, who prosecuted the case with Sandy Meyer. "He ran into the wrong person."
"She really fought hard," Mrs. Kroboth said. "She broke a picture frame over his head" during the struggle.
The victim was willing to testify in court, Mrs. Kroboth said, to make sure that he would not commit a similar crime.
The woman's struggle touched not only the prosecutors but many others in the courtroom. After the trial, the jurors hugged the victim.
For more than six months before these crimes, a black man had frightened women in the same neighborhood. Another elderly woman had found a man under her bed, and the suspect fled. Police, however, picked up Cartwright two blocks away, but the woman could not identify him.
Then on Christmas Eve, 2002, the woman victim in court saw a man in her carport. He fled but came back later that night and exposed himself. But she also could not identify him.
The on-call police investigator, Dale Foster, was assigned to the rape case. Later it was turned over to Investigator Mike Horstmann, who was looking into the first two incidents.
Police, led by Identifications Officer Will Cassidy, recovered Cartwright's fingerprints from real estate fliers under the woman's carport and then got a print from inside the house. The prints matched, and they also matched Cartwright's prints on file with the State Bureau of Investigation. Police got a warrant for Cartwright's arrest and found him two days later.
Then they obtained DNA samples from the woman and Cartwright.
SBI Special Agent Brenda Bissett, an expert in DNA, testified that Cartwright had committed the crimes. She said the odds that someone else had done it was 1.9 billion trillion to 1, unless he had an identical twin brother. His birth certificate showed that he did not have a twin.
"Everyone was touched by this nice little old lady," Mrs. Kroboth said.
"She is such a good person," Mrs. Meyer said.
But the woman is not taking any more chances. Mrs. Kroboth said she now owns a big dog, has a chain-link fence around her property and a big mirror on her carport to see if anyone has sneaked in.
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