Man sentenced to life in prison for 1977 Rockville rape

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Local,Maryland,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

More than 30 years after a woman was raped at her Rockville apartment building, her attacker was sentenced to life in prison for the assault, prosecutors said.

Richard Eugene Ricketts, now 64, was identified as the attacker in 2011 through DNA evidence. He was sentenced in the case on Friday in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The rape occurred on the night of Oct. 24, 1977, on the 200 block of Congressional Lane.

A woman, then 25, had parked her vehicle in front of her apartment building and was walking to the structure when a man put his left arm over her neck and his right arm over her mouth. The attacker then forced the woman to the ground, raped her and ran away, according to a charging document.

Police were contacted on the night of the attack, and the woman was taken to a hospital to be examined. Swabs were taken from the victim that contained her attacker's bodily fluid, the document stated.

The woman had also given police a description of her rapist. Although police extensively investigated the incident in 1977 and 1978, they were unable to identify any viable suspects at the time.

Then, in January 2011, the Montgomery County Police Department Cold Case Squad reopened the case. A lab was able to create a DNA profile of the attacker from the swabs collected during the victim's exam, and a match for the profile was searched for in convicted offender databases.

In August 2011, police were notified that the DNA profile matched that of Ricketts, who was 28 and living in Montgomery County at the time of the rape. Ricketts' DNA was in the Florida convicted offender database because of convictions in that state for burglary and sexual battery in 1999, according to the charging document. He also was convicted of another rape and burglary in Montgomery County a few years after the incident at the Rockville apartment building, according to court records.

Ricketts was convicted in February of one count of first-degree rape and two counts of first-degree sex offense for the 1977 attack. In addition to receiving a sentence of life in prison for the rape conviction, he also was sentenced to an additional 50 years for the other counts, court records show.

"The verdict and sentence shows that you cannot outrun the long arm of the law, thank goodness for the DNA database," said Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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