AP NEWS

Women speak out after Houston man gets life sentence for 7 rapes

May 25, 2018 GMT

He would offer them a ride, or sometimes money. If they didn’t agree to get in his car, Marquis V. Tate would use a knife or a gun to force them. Once inside the white Hyundai Elantra, the door handles didn’t work so they couldn’t get out. Not until the 6 foot 2, burly ex-basketball player was finished assaulting them.

Thursday two of the women attacked by serial rapist Marquis V. Tate said they want to put their ordeals behind them, now that he has been sentenced to life in prison. And not one life sentence, but seven.

Tate, 35, made national headlines in 2016 when police arrested him because he was linked to more than 24 Houston-area rapes. He was convicted earlier this week of a 2015 rape of woman in the Fifth Ward, but instead of fighting the other cases he took a deal to plead guilty to seven cases in exchange for seven life sentences that will run consecutively. Tate will not be eligible for parole for 30 years.

“The past few years, I’ve had to deal with all of it,” said 21-year-old Patricia, which is not her real name. “Now I can go to sleep at night knowing that he is away and not doing this to anybody anymore.”

Patricia and almost a dozen other victims were in court when Tate, 35, admitted his guilt and was sentenced by visiting Judge Terry Flenniken. She was one of two women who took the stand to give a victim impact statement.

“It was overwhelming,” the young woman said, who seemed upbeat despite the violent attack. “But I just had to let him know that he didn’t win.”

She felt compelled to take the stand, Patricia explained, to represent all the other women who seemed too scared to speak out.

Tate was convicted Tuesday of sneaking up behind a another woman walking along Lyons Road in October 2015, near where Patricia was abducted. He forced that woman into his car at knife-point.

The door knobs in the Hyundai had been broken off, so she was trapped inside.

Tate then drove her to a secluded area, where he raped her. She called police and underwent a sexual assault exam that collected DNA.

That DNA matched several other Harris County cases and a pattern emerged. When police looked through the files, some of the women had remembered the license plate number of the white car.

That license plate led police to a convicted sex offender in Dallas-Fort Worth, a co-worker who sold the car to Tate.

Armed with the car’s previous owner’s statement and a warrant for Tate’s DNA, Houston police arrested him in 2016. His DNA connected him to several cases where biological evidence had been collected from the victim.

“At first he denied knowing them, then he claimed it was consensual,” said Houston police Detective Monica Fortson, assigned to sex crimes. “Wednesday was the first day he ever admitted to doing anything wrong.”

When Tate was arrested Fortson had a list of 30 possible sexual assaults of women, but she narrowed the cases down to 24 where the manner of the attack and the suspect seemed to match the victim’s description.. Police held a press conference warning the public that Tate may have committed other assaults while living outside the Houston area in 2013 and 2014.

Forston encouraged law enforcement officers in Fort Worth, Philadelphia and Ohio to consider him a suspect because he spent time there. He was also a basketball player at Presentation College in South Dakota after being raised in Houston.

After finding women who were willing to testify, Forston nd the Harris County District Attorney’s Office filed charges with seven different victims. Tate, afer an all-male jury convicted him in just 45 minutes, decided not to gamble on the other cases.

“I think the verdict coming back that quickly was a real eye-opener,” Fortson said.

For the prosecutors and victims, the plea deal means no other women will have to take the stand in additional trials.

“This is a guy who was responsible for 20 or more aggravated sexual assaults,” said Assistant District Attorney Traci Bennett. “So he was a real danger to the community. For the safety of the women in the community, he needed to be off the streets.”

Bennett prosecuted the case with Kristina Roberts, who beamed as she described how relieved the women were when they found out they would not have to testify. She said that realization, combined with a severe punishment, led to an emotional outpouring for the women.

“It was emotional for me as a woman and as a prosecutor, it was powerful,” Roberts said. “Lot of tears and hugs.”

Bennett agreed.

“It was so great being able to tell them they didn’t have to testify,” she said. “We never dreamed that he would take responsibility.”

Tate’s attorney, Tom Radosevich said the plea deal saves Tate from the possibility of getting another life sentence that could be stacked on top of the first life sentence.

“It was the best we could do,” he said.

In addition to the seven life sentences, Tate was also fined $10,000.

“We wanted him to have every single bit of punishment that the law allowed,” Bennett noted.

The teamwork and result was praised by Joe Gamaldi, a police officer who is president of the Houston Police Officers Union.

“The detectives did a fantastic job of putting the case together and kudos to the prosecutors who laid it all out for the jury,” he said. “Now he’s going to be locked up for the rest of his life, which is exactly as it should be.”

Nicole, another victim who is using an alias, welcomed the plea deal with a sigh of relief. She said she still has trouble sleeping and can still feel his body on her.

“He understood that what he did was wrong and got the punishment that he deserved,” she said. “You can’t go into people’s lives and do what he did.”