Crime

Woman faces attacker who got away

Jeanie Friar never thought she'd see the man who robbed and abused her on Jan. 4, 1994, and left her with so much fear that she wouldn't go beyond her front door for seven years.

On Friday, she watched the man, Danny Chavis, receive a 40-year prison sentence.

"I hope you enjoy the piece of my soul you stole from me," Friar told Chavis in court. "I'm taking it back now."

It was the maximum Chavis faced for pleading guilty Monday to crimes he committed before fleeing and building a second life in Virginia.

The News & Observer generally withholds the names of sexual assault victims. In this case, Friar, 49, agreed to have her name published because, in her words, "I didn't do anything wrong."

Friar had wanted a soda and a sandwich the night of the attack, and she and a male friend walked down New Bern Avenue and stopped at a convenience store. There, a pair of men high on crack followed the couple and attacked them with a wooden plank near a library, snatching Friar by saying they had a gun. They took her behind some nearby houses where Chavis made her give him oral sex and the other man raped her.

Friar, a mother of 13-year-old and 19-year-old boys, reported the crime as soon as she could, and police soon began looking for two men: Christopher McClam and Chavis. McClam's brother, a Greensboro policeman, urged him to turn himself in, and he received a life sentence, according to Jeff Cruden, a Wake prosecutor.The earliest he could be released on parole is in 2020, Cruden said.

Chavis left Raleigh, where he had a large family and had played football at Enloe High School. His own family didn't know whether he was alive or dead, they wrote in letters to the judge.

Chavis, now 45, lived under the assumed name Robert Jones in Richmond, Va. There, he became a church deacon in 1998, married a woman named Glenda Jones in 1999, went to PTA meetings and football games for his stepchildren and built brick walkways for seniors in his community.

He appeared to have turned his life around, giving up drugs and alcohol, his attorney Dewey O'Kelley said. Chavis played guitar in his Baptist church choir and never missed Sunday worship, his wife wrote in a letter to the judge. The couple had a paper route to boost their income, and he donated 10 percent of his salary to the church even as the family struggled to put food on the table, Jones wrote.

His wife didn't know why he left Raleigh.

"I still don't understand how or why this happened," Jones wrote. "I ask myself this every day."

Chavis' life in Richmond ended two years ago, when Raleigh Police Sgt. J.J. Matthews hunted him down using fingerprint databases. After two years in jail, he was scheduled to go on trial Monday, but instead pleaded guilty to charges including robbery, rape, sex offense and kidnapping.

On Friday, Chavis explained that the crime had taken a toll on him as well as Friar.

"I heard her say that it's been a nightmare for her for so many years," Chavis said in court. "I've also been living that same nightmare."

No forgiveness

He then apologized, but didn't turn to look at Friar, who sat feet away on a court bench.

If he had, he would have seen her head shaking no.

She won't forgive, she later said.

After the attack, Friar, a single mother, stopped taking classes at Wake Tech Community College and spent two weeks in a mental hospital.

She left Raleigh within three months with her sons.

In her new home several states away, she wouldn't leave the house for seven years, too afraid to walk outside for fear that she would be attacked again. Her sons became her caregivers, going to the grocery store and handling household errands.

They grew up too fast, she says.

She said she was no longer the outgoing woman she once was. She pulled herself together as the years went by, but never thought Chavis would be caught. "I thought it was just thrown away, that it was a lost cause," she said.

In 2006, though, she learned that Chavis had been arrested when her apartment manager, a friend, received a call from police. Friar fell to the ground sobbing when she heard.

Now she's a grandmother of five who spoils them all equally and is once again taking classes to pursue her goal of getting a job in architecture.

She urged other women to come forward if they're attacked and not to feel shame.

"Do what you have to to survive, but don't let them keep your dignity," she said. "My dignity was stolen and I allowed it."

It took many years, she said, but now she has it back.

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