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tv   Dateline NBC  NBC  October 9, 2009 9:00pm-10:00pm EDT

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they were safe. they were wrong. >> i was convinced that i was going to die. >> his victims, a teenager, a grandmother, a mother to be. the stranger was careful, cool, and vicious. >> it happened the exact same way. the guy has got a mask being he's got gloves, a condom. it's very meticulous. >> over 14 years, more than a dozen women. he left no clues, except one. >> we had the dna. we had what it took to identify the person. >> but the dna had no match. the attacker's record, it seems, was clean. >> if you're a woman living in that area -- >> through the pouring rain.
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good evening. i'm ann curry. women that trapped a rapist haunting their community. here is keith morrison. >> it was the year the rain changed and the year that it became the year to fear. a suburb called forest hills and a nashville lawyer learned about her security, or rather that she was not secure at all. >> a man's home is his castle. we're always safe in our home. well, we're not always safe in our home.
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>> it was march 1994. it was the middle of the night and pat young, accomplished, gutsy woman, successful lawyer, engaged to be married, alone, asleep in her house. heard something. felt something. opened her eyes. >> it was a stranger in my home. >> how terrifying is that? >> it's a life altering event. >> somehow, some way, a man had broken into pat's house. now he loomed about anonymous, his hands over her face and his hands on her. >> when you're at home, asleep in your bed, and a stranger weaking you up telling you to do what i tell you. i don't think anybody would doubt what is getting ready to happen. the only doubt is, are you going to be killed? >> she struggled, he was much larger, aggressive. >> reduced to nothing to fast that everything, every ounce of power is taken away from you.
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you can have a weapon. i had a weapon. if you reach for the weapon, it's probably going to be used against you. so everything at your disposal is gone. >> and then the one thing she thought, to let someone know what had happened. >> i bit a piece out of his hand, which is why they had a dna. >> what did you do with it? >> i put it under the bed were you able to retrieve it later? >> courageous. the man had a gun. at that moment, pat young refused to be a passive victim pat young risked her life and
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her receptionist didn't recognize her. they did not know who i was. >> nashville's d h d.a. heard about the attacker and the violence of the assault and was alarmed. >> we knew this was a person that needed to be found. and the sooner the better. and in 1994, we had the dna and, of course, had the dna been found in the database back in 1994, what followed might never have happened. but there was no match, nothing in the file at least, and so the evidence, useful though it was,
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sat, found a way, waiting for a suspect against richard could be compared. and years passed by in which this horrible and solitary crime went by in doing the corrosive work with pat young and she left her home in that neighborhood, though there were other reasons, too, but mostly she left behind her sense of personal safety. >> i was in a house. every door was locked. i would check with a handgun what if he is here and someone else is here and i did that for a long, long time. you tell yourself that you're being ridiculous but it alters you. >> so it did.
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and pat remembers, a woman said, was it good for you? and i said, i have to go. i have to go home now. and then in november 1998, and then again and again and again. >> he shows up and he shows up big. >> dennis, a reporter. >> very nice neighborhoods. it was probably in 1998 that it happened four times but the exact same way. rainy night, wooded area, someone is attacked in their own home and the guy has got a mask, he's got gloves, he's got rope, a condom. it's like the same m.o. it's very meticulous. >> that was when people started talking about it?
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>> that's when people started talking about it. you have someone in a very affluent town raping people in a very brazen way. it's going to get attention. just think how long he understands that this is okay. >> has he been watching for some time? >> who knows how long? >> and soon a long creeping terror wraps around the nashville's most affluent citizens. >> you start to hear about this and you're a woman living in that area and it starts to rain and you're afraid. >> you don't think you're going to live. i was convinced that i was going to die. that was it. i was not going to see my
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birthday. coming up, a teenager's life is changed forever. >> suddenly you wake up and the entire world is different. >> when "through the pouring rain" continues. a smidge? y'know, there's really no need to weigh packages under 70 pounds. with priority mail flat rate boxes from the postal service, if it fits, it ships anywhere in the country for a low flat rate. cool. you know this scale is off by a good 7, 8 pounds. maybe five. priority mail flat rate boxes only from the postal service. a simpler way to ship. announcer: toyota is rated the highest in dependability among all automakers... which is nice to know if you ever need to lend a helping hand.
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and sometimes it was
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terrifying here. their own homes once secure. >> he had a big athletic guy, physically imposed, a ski mask, said i'll kill you if you don't do this. there was always the threat, if you don't do this i'll go upstairs and kill your own family members. >> he operated at night and seemed to appear from the woods and then vanish back into them. and he attacked when it rain. >> he became known as the wooded rapist. >> why is that? >> a number of the rapes occurred during rainy nights and
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the victims lived in wooded lots where there were houses not really one on top of another. >> after each incident, the police searched the area. but there were no telling signs. only the dna that had no face. the rapist left behind no face that could readily identify him. >> when you can't describe a face, what else can you say about them? >> once dna came on the scene, then he would try to make them go take a shower to get rid of the evidence. >> so a clever man in the dark but maybe not as thorough as he imagined. yes, he wasn't able to remove
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every ves stage of a link to him any more that he could stop the determination of his victims, to save some piece of evidence that might some day be used against their attacker. >> the one thing he couldn't really control is the dna. when you're going to assault someone, that's hard to control that. >> but they couldn't identify a match. police were reduced to issuing warnings. >> they told people, if you live in a wooded area, keep your doo doo doors looked, look out for anything suspicious. >> and then for about a year the attacks seemed to stop. now it was november 1999. a 16-year-old named zea miller
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moved to a suburb called brentwood. she was far more concerned about making friends at her new school. she was asleep and her parents and dog were nearby. >> it was a day before my 17th birthday. i was home in bed asleep. it was 2:00 in the morning. and to be woken up in your own home at gunpoint, it was terrifying. i was convinced i was going to die. that was it. i was not going to see my birthday. i was not going to see my parents again. there was a lot of things i was not going to do because that was it. i was dying. >> most of the women he assaulted was in their bedrooms. but for zea, he had other plans. >> i was taken to another
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location, forcibly asked to undress, i was raped. and i ran home. thinking the whole time, there is a man with a gun and he is probably pointing it straight at me as i am running home. >> through the pouring rain she ran home, back to a different life. >> my life changed and my parents' lives changed. everything changed. i lost my ability to love who i was. my sense of self was so completely destroyed. >> again the police came, the question, the trip to the hospital, the search for evidence, and there was that tall tale, dna. but other than that, nothing. >> how was he regular than a
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different criminal? >> most criminals are really dumb. they make mistakes. they are thinking about what they want and not the result. so they make a mistake and get caught. this guy, no, it wasn't like that. it was like, it was his hobby and he was really, really good at it. >> there were three more rapes in 1999 and 2000 and then nothing for two years and then one in 2004, two in 2005, two in 2006, all confined to those wooded nashville suburbs on rainy nights. a woman seven months pregnant was raped. no one was safe. the rapist seemed to get more brazen as time went on. >> a single minded guy that was going to hurt women of any age. raping a daughter in front of a mother, a mother in front of a daughter, but yet wearing a condom. just really weird and
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methodical. still his victims did what they could, often managing to somehow reserve a vestige of the attacker's dna. so then an indictment was brought, an indictment against a phantom, called the wooded rapist. >> the grand jury indicts this phantom. so why the indictment? because for those five early cases of rape, the statute of limitations was running out. >> so that was why you had a grand jury with the name john doe and someone to indictment. >> yes. >> and then it was 2008.
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14 years had elapsed and 13 women had been attacked. some thought he would never slip up. but not everyone. >> what did you think? >> that sooner or later there will be a mistake. he is doing terrible things to women. >> will the wooded rapist make a mistake? it was about to rain once again. >> the women looks out the window of her camper and there's this ski mask. >> when "dateline" continues. buzz... destroy... a place that will launch a billion yodels... a place shaped like you... brought to you... you. it starts with you... starting today. yahoo. ♪ yahoo it's you.
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it was the rain that brought it on. they called him the wooded rapist because of the way that he emerged from the trees and then vanished again. 13 lifetimes of posttraumatic flashbacks. >> i could look at your arm and say, you could be him or not be him. >> it was one of the first rainfalls and there's something the way it sounds and it
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triggered me that had that body memory of that nine years before and i lost it. i was curled up on the ground crying and screaming before i knew what was going on. >> for all of their crying over a decade and a half and each with a sackful of the dna, they could not find him, could not figure out who he was. there were some who felt that the police weren't trying enough. but not the women. they had already done what they could to identify the man. >> there was never a change and can i come talk to you. >> she said, zea, i haven't forgotten about you. we're going to find this guy. >> that's enormous amount of pressure from both the investigators and your office to
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get something done. >> the pressure to avoid another victim was tremendous and i know one of the biggest regrets upon leaving the police department was that that was still an open case. >> the rain, the dark, the woods. now it was april 29th, 2008, and the evening patrol shift had gathered. >> the police department here was done at roll call, and the sergeant, before sending them out, he said, fellas, it's a rainy night. keep an eye out for the wooded rapist. >> and a few miles away in a place called brentwood, they vetted down in their camper and in their driveway, their dogs slept on the floor besides them.
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he pulls him over and now they have him. they have a face and a name. >> and what was his reason for being around there and for wearing this mask? >> he said he was going to a party. >> a party? officers checked with neighbors. there was no neighbor. >> they certainly suspected that he was a prowler.
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they let him go. but then they started 24/7 surveillance of him. >> the only thing that may ling him to this string of horrific rapes was a sample of his dna. but how to get it? quietly, carefully, they went about the business of checking the suspect, watched his house, followed his jeep, waited for an opening. and finally it came. the man walked into a restaurant, ordered lunch, ate it, and left. the officers submitted the utensilses from his dinner. >> so you can scoop it up after they've used it the results were back within 48 hours. and it matched the victim's and
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zea miller now 24 years old answered the phone and found herself talking to one of the police officers who had been working her case for almost a decade. >> and says, he with got him. that's it. we got him. >> did it register? >> oh, yeah. i was crying and laughing and screaming and calmed down enough to say how and who? >> and the answer to that question was about remarkable as any answer could be. and for one small town could not be more stunning. >> everybody knew him. everybody liked him. he was the perfect boy. when "through the pouring rain" continues. so he's decided to call every mobile phone in the country.
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robert jason, 38 years old, perfect record, the man who kept his identity a secret through 14 years of terror.
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and in a small town not far from nashville, that news was about as shocking as it could be. their jason? was that even remotely possible? >> it was all anybody was talking about. can you believe it was jason? can you believe that he did that? >> angela greer is a nurse, happily married, two children. once upon time in clarksville, tennessee -- >> he was probably my first true love. my first love. >> they were both sophomores, both 16. >> he came from a wonderful family. they went to church on sundays. they were members of all of the organizations. >> an alpha male in training. >> he was popular, attractive, girls liked him, women liked him. >> in fact, he was the big man
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on campus. when angela moved to clarksville as a scene, she felt privileged that -- >> he had a way with the girls. that's for sure. >> after high school, he tried a career as a corrections officer but his success with women got him into trouble. >> there was a story about him leaving the prison system after an affair. >> apparently he left because he had an affair with somebody and that person's husband attacked him and there was a fight. >> and so he built a new career in security system, learning the trade partially under former boss howard. >> a very good employee. he was at work on time, always neatly grumed. >> and his luck with the ladies was always in play. >> i know that he dated several employees. the only feedback i got from one of the dates was that he was
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just way too polite. way too nice, made her uncomfortable. >> too polite? too nice? could the police have made a mistake? they discovered that jason seemed to live an exemplary life. he became active on the charity circuit, once helping habitat for humanity, a date for the prize. >> i mean, this whole time ease either married or dating or bachelor, auction. you know, he's out there in the community doing things. >> as the news spread, the shock spread with it, along with women in particular. one woman called him "the best guy i ever dated". >> jason's family stood up for him insisting that there must be some mistake.
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but they began to reflect on a darker side of their old friend and another memory came bubbling out. >> he had this reputation. i know that he did actually get in trouble for vandalism. >> the childhood prank? she never did find out why he got accused of vandalism but nothing at all childish about the incident at the mall after being discovered that he had been two-timing her. >> i noticed that he was with the girl that he was dating and i turned to her and said, if you're smart, you'll run. and i just turned to walk away and that's when he grabbed me and he assaulted me in the mall, right there in front of everybody. >> what happened? ze grabbed me by my hair and hit me. >> he punched you? ze punched me but i fought back and he had a scratch that kind of ran down the whole side of his face here. >> how badly dehurt you when he hit you?
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>> yeah, i was all bruised up on one side of my face. >> angela had pressed charges and jason, pride of his town and his family, was sent to a youth detention center. >> for how long? >> i'm not sure exactly how long he went? >> i know he missed christmas and that upset the family very much. >> anything other than a gentleman wrongly accused. >> they blamed me. they brought every gift that i had every bought them, they brought and dropped on my door step. >> so they couldn't believe that their son had done anything bad to you? >> no, they couldn't. they never -- they could never see anything that he did was wrong. >> and never, apparently, could much of clarksville. >> i can't tell you who it was. somebody set my yard on fire. i became an outcast when i sent
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the golden boy to spencer. >> did you ever feel guilty about the fact that you turned him in? >> yes, i did. i carried a lot of guilt for a long time. >> but now that same golden boy was about to go on trial for brutalizing more than a dozen women, many of whom stood up to their attacker in ways that finally made it possible to try jason for rape. >> even as they were being victimized, they kept a cool head and the 61-year-old woman, forced to take a shower, was moving but leaving certain areas covered at all times in the shower. >> so she didn't wash it away? >> yes. so even after being terrorized about all of that she keeps her wits and preserves the dna. >> he was headed to court for the first of what could be as many as 13 trials.
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>> i asked the victim if it would bother her if i stayed and she said, no, please stay. and we sat back there and i finally turned to her do you think he knows who i am and that i'm even back here? we pondered that for a while. i don't think we ever found out the answer to it. >> a victim talks about how she defied her attacker's orders. that's when "dateline" continues. strips whiten, but aquafresh white trays used only once a day whiten 25% faster
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the man known as the wooded rapist had attacked 13 women. now, robert, a well-liked nashville bachelor, would stand trial, for, one by one, each of the crimes. >> do you understand the charges or do you want me to read the indictments? >> i understand the charges. >> the victims? a grandmother, a teenager, a
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pregnant woman, and a friend's niece, and then taking them out to eat weeks later without being recognize. and now the prosecutor set outs to link him to the vicious work with a be strand of others unlike any others. enough cells? oh, yes, says the prosecutor. >> it's the standard. i think jurors have -- and the public have come to see it as if not fool proof, something that they can believe him the first victim a. lawyer, was determined to be in court every day. >> for years i've wondered who he is. i mean, just, who is this guy?
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it's sort of like going to the zoo. i wanted to see him. >> do you recall the events of the evening of november the 18th? >> the first case was the newest crime of the eldest victim, a 61-year-old woman who might, quite reasonably, found it very painful to get up in court and reveal what her attacker did to her. when the trial began, it was she the prosecutor called upon. and so she took the stand and told the story, as horrifying and humiliating as it was in court, she did not waiver, though the judge granted her a sliver of privacy, by ordering the courtroom cameras to turn away from her face. >> it was like a fog of him saying it twice, very strongly, get up, get up. >> she recalled how she had been awoke enon the night of her attack by an intruder wearing a ski mass zk what had gotten
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after that? >> he immediately put duct tape across my eyes, told me to take off my clouds and put duct tape on my wrists. >> and at that time are you nude? >> yes, sir, that's correct. >> tell the jury what happened to you? >> at that time he french kissed my and then he kissed my breasts. >> and then the nightmare got worst. >> were these acts with or against your consent? >> well, i would have chosen for him not to. >> why did you allow him to do this? >> because i wanted to stay alive. >> after he finished, the attacker made her shower. his intention, that she wash away his tell-tale dna. but she did not wash it away. she did the only thing she knew how to do, in effect, to fight back. >> i didn't get under the water when i got into the shower. i stood next to the glass. >> and why did you do that? >> just to preserve any
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evidence, if there was any. >> and then after her attacker left, she called police. >> and i took two cotton swabs from q-tips from my cabinet and swabed my mouth out, put it in a ziploc bag. >> at a hospital, the nurse took more samples from her body, analyzed by experts, who matched them against the unique dna profile of the defendant. >> what were your findings, if any, with respect to comparison of the known dna profile of robert jason with the perpetrator's dna. >> i phoned that the profiles did match and the probability of finding an unrelated individual with the same profile. >> the possibility that it was someone else's dna, billions and billions to one. >> so he matches the
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perpetrators? >> yes, sir. >> there was more traditional evidence, circumstantial stuff, in his jeep, for example. >> this is one roll of green duct tape and 13 condoms. >> no so usual, perhaps, to find condoms in a bachelor's car but then a search of his home revealed more items that could have been tools of a very nasty trade. >> there were quite a few black clothes located in the far end of a dresser and quite a few other things. obviously a few handguns that we've recovered. >> and anything dealing with nighttime activities? >> there were night vision goggles recovered. i recall some like anti-dog barking devices. >> but no testimony was as damming as the dna evidence. after all, no one on earth and
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he was adopted and was there an unknown twin somewhere. somebody with his identical dna, someone else committing these horrific crimes? could the dna be pointing to the wrong man? coming up, trying to shake the jury's fate of the dna. >> this case is a dna case. that's it. that's all they've got. >> would that by itself be enough to convict? (announcer) we call it the american renewal because we believe that ideas are limitless. that's why, everyday at ge, thousands of scientists and researchers at our global research centers and throughout the company are redefining what's possible by creating
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jason was on trial for the first of 13 rape charges but no victim had ever seen his face. he left no visible evidence, except prosecutors claimed his dna. the defense, left by fletcher long, maintained that that wasn't enough. >> they don't have anything inside the house that ties him to him, they don't have anything inside retrieved from the yard that ties it to him. they have nothing but dna evidence. >> that dna evidence had tagged him as the owner but the jury was made aware that in rare caseses, two people could share the same dna. >> and the probability increases as the degree of kinship to the
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defendant gets greater. would you agree? >> yes, starting with identical twins, they have identical dna. >> did you have any hope that you might be able to use the evil twin defense? >> no, they sure thought we were going to say that, didn't they? no. one one thing you have to do is shake the science. >> ang shot, of course. and in the end, the defense did not use it. because the prosecution was ready. >> identical twins may share the same dna but they don't share the same fingerprints. >> and you had his fingerprints from some of the other cases? >> yes, that is what the defense would have been confronted with, had they gone any further. >> ladies and gentlemen, the stipulation is the fact that mr. robin jason does not have a twin. >> the obama hope was to prove that the dna found on the victim had been teanted somehow during the investigation. >> the victim had some swabs
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that she brought to general hospital that were take fren inside her mouth. is that right? >> she said it was around her mouth. >> and can you tell us who all had handled those? >> i think it was in a plastic bag. i think it was only her. >> we femt like we put on a contamination case. the lead detective admitted that it was put in a plastic bag and that was the worst place that it could have been put. >> but there were other dna samples taken at the hospital. >> they are slam shut pretty fast. the defense didn't have a single witness. the defense decided not to put jason on the stand. >> have you made the decision? >> yes. >> do you choose to testify or not to testify? >> not to testify. >> all right.
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thank you, sir. all right. we can bring the jury in. >> and that was his right, of course. not to testify. and the trial was brief. it lasted just three days. >> the dna in and on her body is his to the exclusion of everyone in the world. is he the man who committed these crimes? and i submit to you in closing, beyond any reasonable doubt, he is that man. i'd ask to you so find. thank you. >> none of it connects at all with mr. burdick. not a thing. i mean, this case is a dna case. that's it. that's all they've got. >> in the case of the state of tennessee versus robert jason -- >> and the verdict came quickly. two hours later, the jury returned. >> wherein the charge is
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aggravated defense, has the jury arrived at a verdict? >> yes, sir. >> what is the verdict? >> guilty. >> the his family was obviously distraught, his father n. particular. >> you're touching people. >> you kicked me. >> no, we did not. >> a very different kind of moment for the victims of the case and the women who shared the horror. >> by the end of the first trial, you found your self in tears, a tough lawyer like you? >> here i am squawking in the back of the courtroom. and it does -- it comes out of know where it has since 1994. >> jason was sentenced to 32 years in prison. but even with the guilty verdict there were questions still unanswered. if he was the wooded rapist, how did he choose his victims? how did he keep his identity so well hidden from the family and
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how did he avoid detection? the first trial didn't really fully answer those questions but there are many more cases to come, many more charges. and he's pleaded not guilty to all of them. >> how many of them will you try? >> until we run out of victims. >> why? >> because each victim deserves their day in court. >> and the things about you still broken? >>. >> are things in that are gone in my life that i will never get back. rain, that used to be my favorite thing, in the fall, which is my favorite season, will always make me just a little bit on edge. i do not sleep with the lights off. i am afraid of the dark. i hate being in the woods. >> she's waited a long time for justice. >> >> i have, along with many of
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my sympathetic family member, thought a really long list of horrible ways that he should die? >>. >> still, one by one their cases will be heard and at some point it will be pat young's turn, the first victim, the savvy lawyer, who in the midst of her worst nightmare told her tale and she is ready to take him on. >> i don't have to know what he looks like. i don't have to know how tall, what he weighs. there's a piece of him that will always say who he is. >> and now, on the nights when the rain begins in the wooded suburbs around


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