POMEROY — The case of an alleged kidnapping, gang rape and robbery of a Syracuse woman in May 1994 was reopened last week when Timothy “Bo” Willis went before Judge I. Carson Crow asking that records concerning his alleged involvement be expunged.
The case involved three Meigs County men who were accused of picking up the victim in Pomeroy and taking her to a remote location, where she alleges she was raped by all three men, robbed, beaten and left lying in the mud.
At the time of the incident, Meigs County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Tenoglia said, “The county has not seen a crime of this brutality since a double-slaying in 1991.”
According records obtained from the Meigs County Clerk of Courts, Benjy Rhodes, of Middleport; Dave Sigman, of Portland; and Timothy Willis, of Syracuse, were charged with aggravated rape and aggravated kidnapping, both felonies of the first degree, and robbery of a diamond ring and bracelet, a second-degree felony. In addition, Sigman was charged with arson for allegedly setting fire to the woman’s purse.
Rhodes pleaded guilty to grand theft and was sentenced to 18 months at the Orient Correctional Reception Center. He also entered a guilty plea to the charge of gross sexual imposition with a “specification alleging physical harm,” according to court documents, for which he received a sentence of three to five years at the same correctional facility.
Rhodes’s sentence of grand theft was suspended and was placed on probation following his release from prison. The Daily Sentinel was unable to confirm his release date.
The charges for Sigman and Willis were amended to obstruction of justice, a fourth-degree felony, to which they both entered guilty pleas.
Sigman was given a prison sentence of six to 18 months, which was to be suspended on the condition he enter into and complete the SEPTA Center program. Upon his release, he would be placed on five years probation. Sigman’s legal troubles have continued since then, making him ineligible for expungement.
Willis, the man in court last week, was sentenced to 18 months and similar terms in the 1995 proceedings, which he successfully completed. He was then eligible to file, under Ohio Revised Code 2953.32, to have his records expunged or sealed.
The 1994 victim was not present in the courtroom last week, but submitted a statement to be read on her behalf by Victims Assistance Director Theda Petrasko.
“Sadly, for the past 22 years, I have been unsuccessful at forgetting what happened to me. I cannot forget the night these three men promised to give me a ride home, and instead drove me to a remote location, drug me into the woods and raped and violated me … beat me unconscious and left me naked, muddy and unconscious in the woods. I feel that under no circumstance should Timothy Willis have the opportunity to clear his record.”
She also wrote that Willis “had not made any attempts to amend for his crime and that I could never escape what he did.”
“Just having these discussions again is making it all real all over again, not just for me but for my family. It was difficult, especially for my daughter, to live through the media attention. I lost so much that day. I wasn’t just scared from the cuts and bruises, but my soul was scarred and my hearth and disposition has been forever altered negatively.”
The victim’s daughter, a junior in high school at the time of the incident, was in the courtroom to give testimony to Crow on the effect the crime had on her life and that of her brother. She said the family was devastated by what happened to her mother and that her grandmother was embarrassed and urged the victim not to pursue the matter.
Her voice shook as she said, “I was just turning 18, my brother was 23, planning to be married the next month. Now (Willis) is making my family go through this again. We cannot erase what happened, neither should you (pointing to the defendant). I don’t know how you three got away with it. To me, the state or someone should have pushed it.”
Carson asked Assistant Prosecutor Jeremy Fisher if he had any information on the reason the charges were lowered. Fisher responded that due to the the length of time since the incident occurred, his office did not have the information.
Willis, who declined council during the hearing, was asked if he would like to add any evidence to his request.
A portion of his statement was not discernible, but ended with, “I was going to report it the next morning, but they arrested me before I could,” before trailing off.
Willis then recalled a time after the case was concluded in which he said his son had backed into the victim’s car.
“I didn’t want my son’s insurance to go up if it was reported, so I went up to where the accident happened. She was there. She didn’t seem afraid of me,” he said. “I offered her $100 if she didn’t go to the police … to settle it. She took the money, smiled and drove away. So if she is so afraid of me …
“The original crime was just a misunderstanding.”
Crow said in these type of cases, the family decides.
“And this family has asked that Willis’ request to have an expungement not be granted, and I so move to deny the request,” he said.
Reach Lorna Hart at 740-992-2155, Ext. 2551.
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