Chapel Hill News

Two women testify in Orange County serial rape trial

Two women testified Wednesday they feared they were going to die after a man broke into their apartments and raped them.

Frank Cruz, 36, whose address was 224 Rolling Road, Burlington, is on trial in Orange County for one count of first-degre rape, three counts of second-degree rape, one count of first-degree sexual offense, four counts of second-degree sexual offense, one count of attempted sexual offense, three counts of first-degree burglary, three counts of first-degree kidnapping, three counts of communicating threats and one count of assault on a female.

One woman testified she was raped by what she believed was the same man two different times while she lived at the Abbey Court Apartments in Carrboro in 2005 and 2006.

The other woman, who was a graduate student, testified a man broke into her apartment at Sterling Bridge in Carrboro and raped her at knifepoint in 2006.

It is the general policy of The News and Observer not to name complainants in rape cases.

The first woman to testify told the jury that on March 4, 2006, she was sleeping at the Sterling Bridge Apartments on BPW Club Road in Carrboro when she heard a noise from her living room.

“The next thing I knew there was a knife at my throat on the left side of my neck,” she said.

She grappled with the man and managed to turn on a light on for a moment, which angered him, she said.

“He smashed my lamp and pushed me violently to the ground so the back of my head and my back hit the floor really hard,” she said.

The man kept telling her to shut up but she continued to scream and fight with him.

“Then he started punching me in the face,” she said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

As she screamed and prayed out loud, he mocked her for praying, she said.

The man spoke English with a heavy Spanish accent, she said.

The assault ended, and he left, she said. She called 911 and police officers took her to the UNC Hospitals Emergency Room, where a nurse examined her and collected evidence from her body.

Knock on the door

The other woman testified that on Nov. 6, 2005, she was watching the 11 o’clock news and reading when the electricity went off in her apartment at Abbey Court, now known as Collins Crossing.

She looked outside and saw a man talking on his cell phone.

A short time later, she said, she heard a knock on the door, and when she peeked out the peep hole, it was the same man. She opened the door a crack and asked if he had called Duke Power. He said. yes, but when she went to close the door, he pushed it open and threw her down on the kitchen floor.

Her glasses were knocked off and it was dark, so she couldn’t see him very well, she said.

“He was so strong, I just couldn’t move,” she testified.

He took her to the bedroom and because he threatened to kill her, she did what he asked, she said.

He sexually assaulted her in several ways and raped her, then told her stay where she was and he left.

She called 911 and a female investigator took her to the Emergency Room, where a nurse trained in sexual assault examination collected evidence, she said.

The woman went on with her life, going to work and keeping the incident a secret from her family and friends. She didn’t move from Abbey Court because she couldn’t afford it, she said.

On Jan. 2, 2006, the woman said she was just waking up around 5:30 a.m. when she saw the outline of a man in her apartment.

“I said, ‘Oh God. Not again, dear God, not again,’” she said.

She couldn’t tell for sure if it was the same man but his voice sounded the same. He spoke English with a Spanish accent.

The man put a pillow over the top of her head to cover her eyes. As she testified, she held her hands to her face as though holding a pillow over her eyes.

Afterward, he made her take a shower and she tried to pretend she was washing carefully but tried to preserve as much evidence as she could, she said.

She later discovered the man had removed a window in the spare bedroom to enter her apartment.

She never spent another night in the apartment, she said.

Neither woman identified Cruz from the stand as her attacker, and Cruz’s attorney, Assistant Public Defender George Doyle, did not ask them any questions.

In his opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Byron Beasley told the jury that police were not able to identify the man or men who raped the women until 2009.

That was when an Alamance County law enforcment officer took DNA from Cruz and submitted it to a national DNA data base. It came back as a match to DNA taken from the body of the graduate student during the examination at UNC Hospitals.

The trial continues Thursday.