Prosecutor opens trial by telling jurors rapes followed a pattern

Casey Grove

Holding his victims at knife point, Richard Dorsey forced the women, all of them prostitutes, to have sex with him on four separate occasions between 2001 and 2003, according to a state prosecutor opening Dorsey's rape trial Wednesday.

Dorsey, 46, might have gotten away with the series of rapes -- cold cases that sat in limbo for years -- if not for a resourceful sex crimes detective, prosecutor Brittany Dunlop said. The detective, Sgt. Ken McCoy, retrieved a Styrofoam cup Dorsey drank out of during a court appearance in an unrelated case, had it tested for DNA, and ultimately linked Dorsey to five sexual assaults.

Dorsey is on trial and charged with four counts of sexual assault and two counts of attempted sexual assault. In a strange twist, Dorsey raped one of the women twice in less than a year, Dunlop said.

Not all of the rape investigations yielded DNA evidence, but each case fits Dorsey's pattern, Dunlop told the jury. The nine men and five women, including alternate jurors, watched as the prosecutor set down red and blue cubes, one by one, alternating the colors.

"Patterns. This is a case about a pattern," Dunlop said. "All five women will tell you a story that is so similar, and so unique to Mr. Dorsey, that it's eerie."

All of the rapes happened just after Dorsey picked up the women. All of them involved a knife. All of them were within four blocks of where he lived.

Dorsey was finally arrested for the rapes in 2009. He has pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Paul Maslakowski, said Dorsey had sex with prostitutes but didn't rape them. The prosecutors' evidence is thin, Maslakowski said, and they're trying to pin the rapes on Dorsey without proper proof.

According to prosecutor Dunlop, this is how Dorsey's string of sexual assaults began:

In October of 2001, Dorsey picked up a prostitute turning tricks on Spenard Road to support her drug and alcohol addiction. When she was inside his van, Dorsey pulled out a pocket knife, and told her he was going to rape her. After he finished, he demanded she give back $45 he'd handed her earlier.

Dorsey, a nurse at the time, wore dark-blue scrubs and a wedding ring.

The woman only reported being robbed, and the case went nowhere, Dunlop said.

"You can read between the lines, that the police interpreted this was a prostitution deal gone bad and suspended the case," Dunlop told the jury.

The woman had seen Dorsey's license plate, which was later used to connect him to the rape. Years later, she was able to pick him out of a police photo lineup.

Dorsey struck again in the early fall of 2002, raping the woman he would sexually assault again nine months later, Dunlop said. The first time was in a pedestrian tunnel a couple blocks off Spenard Road, where Dorsey drove her in a small grayish-blue pickup.

According to the prosecutor, he picked up his next alleged victim at 29th Avenue and Arctic Boulevard, still in the Spenard area and driving the same small pickup, the first week of October 2002. He pulled a knife from under his seat and raped the woman twice. Dorsey left his DNA, Dunlop said.

Back on Spenard about a week later, Dorsey picked up another woman and drove her in the same pickup to a nearby storage area. She fought with Dorsey, cutting her hand before she escaped to a nearby taxi, whose driver called 911.

Using the woman's description of Dorsey and his pickup, police linked him to the attempted rape, Dunlop said. She also picked him out of a photo lineup, the prosecutor said.

That same month, a drunk driver struck and severely injured Dorsey on the Seward Highway. He spent the next several months recuperating, using a wheelchair and then crutches to get around, his attorney said.

It was spring when police had another, similar rape case, Dunlop said.

"It explains the break," she said.

The break ended when Dorsey, now driving a larger maroon pickup, again solicited the woman he'd raped in the tunnel, Dunlop said.

"She didn't recognize him at first," Dunlop said. "As soon as he reaches over into the glove compartment, and she recognizes he's pulling out the knife, she says, 'Oh man, you don't need to do that. I know what you're doing, and you don't need to use the knife."

"When he was done, he said he was sorry," Dunlop said.

The woman did not report either rape until 2007, Dunlop said. By then, she was no longer a prostitute, having cleaned up her life after her own serious car wreck. The woman was in a coma for eight months and suffered memory loss, the prosecutor said.

She happened to see Dorsey in a store parking lot that year and confronted him. He told her "she needed to take her meds" and sped off, Dunlop said. The woman called police to report the rapes, identified Dorsey as her attacker, and described both of the pickups he'd driven, Dunlop said.

In 2004, Dorsey is alleged to have attacked another woman downtown with his fist and a knife, but she slipped away before he could assault her, Dunlop said. The woman saw Dorsey's license plate, and a police officer later went to talk to him. The officer didn't mention specifics of the assault and only said he was investigating a case downtown, Dunlop said.

"Dorsey's response to him, unsolicited, is, 'She was trying to sell me drugs, so I told her to get out. But I didn't hit her and I didn't stab her,' " Dunlop said. "She has his description, the description of his truck and the license plate. And he puts himself at the scene."

Still, it wasn't until five years later that police began to connect the rapes and attempted rapes.

McCoy, the detective, was putting together evidence for a completely different case against Dorsey. Dorsey was accused of putting his hand up a woman's skirt in a grocery store in 2006. The groping seemed so brazen that McCoy suspected Dorsey had committed other, more serious sexual assaults.

In 2009, while Dorsey was on trial for the groping incident, McCoy noticed him drinking out of a Styrofoam cup. When Dorsey left the cup. McCoy retrieved it and had it tested. The DNA from Dorsey's saliva matched the DNA from the rape victim, Dunlop said. Subsequent tests using DNA collected directly from Dorsey yielded the same result.

A jury convicted Dorsey in the groping case. It was in November 2009, while he was out on bail awaiting sentencing, that police arrested him for the rapes.

When police searched Dorsey's home, they found various knives in "odd" places, Dunlop said. Photographs of different knives filled three pages of photographs, she said.

Dunlop also told the jury that none of the women who accused Dorsey of raping them knew each other.

"That's important as you consider motives and why they would tell similar stories," she said.

In a much shorter opening statement to the jury, Dorsey's attorney, Maslakowski, said the state did not have the evidence to convict his client.

"This case is not really about patterns," Maslakowski said. "It's like a coat at the department store. You keep trying it on ... You convince yourself that it fits."

The fact that Dorsey admits to hiring prostitutes explains some of the contact with the women, Maslakowski said. The women aren't making up everything, but they're not telling the whole truth, he said.

"This case is both hard and easy. You will hear lots of things the police did to try to associate Richard to all these attacks," Maslakowski told jurors. "They want you to believe that, based on these stories, there's a pattern. I want you to sit here, as you promised, with an open mind, and listen to these witnesses and think about what they don't tell you."

Dorsey's trial continues Thursday.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

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