Nathan Antonio Washington walked into the Charlottesville Circuit Court just after 1:30pm, his steps shortened by his shackles. Wearing a gray suit offset by a radiant green tie, he signed the documents of his guilty plea that will put him in prison for the rest of his life. When it came time to confess to the sexual assaults, Washington pauses a second or two, swallows, quietly says, "Guilty" and thereby officially ends the 10-year case of the serial rapist.
Cops took DNA from a Burger King cup to genetically link Washington to the serial rape cases.
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On December 10, Washington, a husband and father of four, pleaded guilty to four sexual assaults in the City of Charlottesville and to a breaking and entering charge in Albemarle County. Under the plea agreement, Washington will be sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison, with an additional 20-year term for the charge in the county.
The hearing effectively brought the case of the serial rapist to a close. Washington has been connected to seven sexual assaults—most marked by his brutal violence to his victims. Four assaults occurred in the city, two in the county and one—the first—in Waynesboro. From his first attack in 1997, Washington was able to evade investigators for over 10 years.
Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Dave Chapman called today’s proceedings "a step along the way toward a completion to a decade worth of fear in the community. Final sentencing will be an end to the formal legal proceedings, but it’s not an end to the trauma that the victims have suffered in these cases."
One of those victims proved essential in solving the case. The Albemarle County woman who Washington sexually assaulted in 2004 recognized him at Harris Teeter, where Washington worked at the time. She was able to get his license plate number, which led area police to set up undercover surveillance on Washington.
On August 1, 2007, Lisa Reeves, a member of the serial rapist task force, followed Washington into the Barracks Road Burger King. There she watched Washington eat lunch, a meal that included a small orange soda. Reeves looked around and noted that the other customers were all drinking from medium cups that featured characters from The Simpsons movie that opened a few days earlier.
After Washington threw away his cup, Reeves was able to pick it out of the trash, certain that the small cup, sans "Simpsons" characters, was his. The preliminary DNA that police obtained from the cup matched that of the serial rapist’s.
Twelve days later, police arrested Washington at his Albemarle County home. On August 16, police publicly confirmed that they had matched his DNA with two of the seven attacks.
After the hearing, Washington’s attorney, Rhonda Quagliana, read a prepared statement. "Today," she said, "Nathan Washington publicly accepted responsibility for the harm he has inflicted on the individual victims of these crimes and this community." She went on to say: "Mr. Washington is not asking for forgiveness, though he hopes his decision to plead guilty to all charges will allow the process of healing to begin."
Chapman says the impetus for the plea agreement came as much from Washington himself as from anyone.
"The offer of pleading guilty to four consecutive life sentences was first brought forth by him," Chapman says. "He wants to get these matters behind him. He wants to take responsibility for his behavior and has done so emphatically with his pleas here today."
As part of his plea agreement, Washington will give police any information about other assaults of the same or lesser magnitude. The sentencing hearing for Washington is set for February 26. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the court must impose the agreed upon sentence, four life terms plus 20 years.
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