04/23/10 — Testimony continues in trial for 1987 rape

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Testimony continues in trial for 1987 rape

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 23, 2010 1:46 PM

Jurors in the trial of William J. Neal heard testimony Thursday from a Raleigh woman raped in 1987, within months of another rape prosecutors allege Neal committed.

Neal is on trial for the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old Jefferson Park girl, a charge that sent a now-exonerated man, Dwayne Dail, to prison for 18 years.

Prosecutors say the Raleigh rape is evidence that Neal is capable of sexual assault, while his defense attorney argued that Neal had never been convicted of the crime.

Assistant District Attorney Mike Ricks had fought for the inclusion of the alleged sexual assault near the campus of N.C. State University, which was dropped by Raleigh prosecutors in 1990.

Neal had been named as a suspect in that rape, but the victim eventually told police she did not want to go through the pressure of a trial, she testified

The News-Argus typically does not name the victims of sexual assaults.

The rape victim said a Raleigh prosecutor, Wade Smith, told her that a trial could be difficult for her.

"(Smith) advised me and counseled me through taking this case to the next level," she said. "I was a 22-year-old ready to interview for jobs and move to Charleston. He said an attorney might ask me hard questions to answer, so rather than go through that, I dismissed the case," she told the court.

Ricks asked the victim to talk about the case, probing for similarities between that assault and the assault on the 12-year-old Goldsboro girl.

The Raleigh rape victim testified the assault occurred in the early morning hours, involved a knife, a suspect who maintained his calm and who disrobed the victim himself. According to Raleigh police who investigated the crime, the suspect entered through a glass pane door that was unlocked.

Ricks argued that those circumstances were all similar to the facts in the 1987 assault, in which Neal is alleged to have stood on a chair and climbed through the 12-year-old girl's window.

The woman testified that she was studying speech pathology at N.C. State, and clearly remembered that the man who raped her had a thick southern accent.

She later said she had heard that voice in the courtroom -- when Neal took the stand briefly during pre-trial preparations.

"I've heard Mr. Neal speak," she said. "His voice sounds exactly like the same voice I heard 20 years ago."

Throughout presentation of the evidence, Neal's attorney, Christopher Rogerson of Kinston, entered objections to the inclusion of the evidence, and also to the rape victim's statement that Neal's voice sounded like that of her attacker.

The objections were noted for the record, but were denied by Judge Arnold Jones.

Rogerson asked the victim if the case had been dropped.

"Ths case was dismissed back on Feb. 22 of 1990, was it not?" Rogerson asked.

"It sounds correct," the victim responded.

Rogerson also questioned State Bureau of Investigation Agent Lucy Milks, who performed the analysis on a rape kit performed on the 12-year-old girl at Wayne Memorial Hospital in 1987.

The defense attorney argued that Goldsboro police had asked Ms. Milks to conduct a semen analysis on the victim's nightgown, but she did not. Ms. Milks said because she found bodily fluid samples in the rape kit, it was considered unnecessary to conduct testing on the nightgown.

The nightgown is a central piece of evidence in the trial, because state investigators allegedly found a sample of Neal's DNA on it after the evidence was found after years of storage at the Goldsboro police department.

The trial was expected to continue today at 9 a.m.