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Prosecution rests in Grand Forks rape case, suspect won't testify

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Prosecution rests in Grand Forks rape case, suspect won't testify
Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

The prosecution in the Grand Forks rape trial of Antonio Raheem Matthews rested its case early Thursday afternoon shortly after the lead investigator in the case testified.

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The defense announced Matthews will not testify and that it won’t call any other witnesses.

Matthews, 21, is charged in state district court with eight felonies, the most serious of which are three counts of gross sexual imposition, commonly referred to as rape, each carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison.

He is accused of breaking into two college women’s apartment in the north end of Grand Forks last year and then robbing and raping them at gunpoint.

It is the Herald’s policy not to name victims of sexual assault.

False statements?

Police Sgt. Travis Jacobson, the lead investigator in the case, suggested to jurors Thursday morning that Matthews had lied to police.

Jacobson testified that Matthews told him in an interview days after the assault that he bought cigarettes from the Gateway Cenex the night of the assault at about 2 a.m. on the way home from his fiancée’s residence.

Dara Thumb, the Gateway Cenex clerk on duty that night, testified earlier this week that a black man with a tattoo on his right hand bought cigarettes there on Sept. 30 at about 12:30 a.m. and then returned at about 2:30 a.m. to buy gas and an iced tea.

She told the jury there were hardly any customers that night. Business records from the Cenex confirmed that someone bought a pack of cigarettes at 12:28 a.m. and an Arizona tea and gas at 2:40 a.m.

Jacobson also testified that Matthews denied owning any guns besides a BB gun with an orange tip in the same interview with police. Jacobson told the jury that while executing a search warrant at Matthews’ apartment, police recovered the BB gun with the orange tip and a black CO2 pistol that matched the victims’ description of the weapon used to threaten them.

One of the victims testified earlier this week that the gun her attacker pointed at her appeared to be an M9 pistol. Only later during the assault when she reached into the assailant’s pocket, pulled out the gun and tried to expel the rounds did she discover it was phony.

Also recovered from the apartment was a purple polo shirt that the victims said their attacker was wearing during the attack, according to police testimony.

Jacobson also told the jury that Matthews claimed not to own any North Face clothing products. He said Matthews also told police that none of his clothing would be in his vehicle, a red Ford Explorer.

During a search of the Explorer, which was carried out shortly after police interviewed Matthews, police recovered a black North Face jacket and a white T-shirt with a red and gray design, as described by the victims. Police also found the victims’ iPhones, which were stolen by their attacker, in a compartment in the back of the Explorer where the tire jack is held.

More evidence

Jacobson also testified that he showed one of the victims pictures of Matthews’ tattoos — one on his right hand with stars and hearts that reads “Chikia,” his mother’s name, and another on his right abdomen that reads “Jo Jo.”

The victim said the hand tattoo looked very familiar, but did not want to say definitively that it belonged to her attacker.

The victims told investigators from the get-go that their attacker had a tattoo of stars and a name in “curvy lettering” on his right hand and an arched tattoo on his abdomen with lettering.

The attacker had his face concealed up to his eyes throughout the assault. For that reason, Jacobson said, he did not ask the victim to identify their attacker.

Jennifer Penner, a forensic scientist with the state crime lab, also testified Thursday about the results of DNA analysis of the rape kits and collected evidence.

She said that no detectable amount of male DNA was found from the swabs taken as part of the rape kits performed on both victims the morning after the assault.

But she did find that the two victims “could not be excluded as contributors” to DNA found on the purple polo shirt confiscated from Matthews’ home, meaning their DNA might have been present on the shirt.

Penner told the jury that based on statistics she ran, there is a relatively small pool of people who could be identified as possible contributors to the DNA found on the shirt. She said that one out of nearly 3.9 million white people would be identified as a possible contributor.

Motion to acquit

After the prosecution rested, Defense Attorney David Ogren motioned for the defendant’s acquittal. He said there was insufficient evidence for the jury to reach a verdict.

The judge denied the motion, pointing to the defendant’s tattoos, the evidence gathered from the defendant’s home and vehicle, the testimony from a neighbor who observed the defendant “fidgeting around” in the back of his vehicle the night of the assault and the DNA analysis.

Court reconvenes today at 9 a.m. The jury will hear attorneys’ closing statements before it is handed the case for deliberation.

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Sarah Volpenhein
(701) 780-1125
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