DEKALB COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) - The man police say sexually assaulted a woman in rural DeKalb County made his initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon.
According to court documents, Michael Stafford, 33, of Hudson, attacked at woman at her home on State Road 1 between Butler and Hamilton in July 2009. He now faces five felony charges. Thursday, a judge entered the procedural not-guilty plea for Stafford.
On his way into court, Stafford told NewsChannel 15 that he didn't attack the woman. When NewsChannel 15 asked then why did police find his DNA there, he said, "It was consensual."
Police and the probable cause said the incident was anything but.
According to the court documents, on July 21, 2009, Stafford started talking to a woman mowing her lawn at her home on State Road 1 near Butler. He was asking about cars she and her husband had for sale that were sitting at the edge of her yard.
The woman said she went into the house to write down her husband's phone number to answer more questions about the cars. When she started to come back outside, police said Stafford met her at the door with a large-bladed knife and force his way into her house.
Stafford then demanded the woman's cell phone and asked if anyone else was home. The woman went to get her daughter, who was playing in the open garage, and Stafford was following her still holding the knife, the probable cause said. The document continued that Stafford told the woman if she didn't do everything he said he would "cut" her and her daughter.
Then the woman told police Stafford tied her and her daughter together with duct tape and said that he was not there for money, but was there to "rape" her. The woman started screaming, and she said Stafford put his gloved hand over her mouth, making it hard for her to breathe. She struggled and was able to get her hands free, the documents said. She moved his hand off her mouth and nose and when Stafford noticed she had broken free, he moved her from the living room to the bedroom.
That's when the probable cause said Stafford made the woman, while being held a knife-point, perform a sex act on him. Police said the little girl was made to watch. The woman said Stafford then forced her and her daughter into a bathroom where she locked the door from the inside. Stafford put a kitchen chair against the door, but when she heard his car start, the woman said she was able to squeeze by it to see him pulling away in a maroon car going north toward Hamilton, court documents continued.
Sedge Hicks lives across the street from the woman and remembers seeing her talking with a man in her yard.
"I never dreamed that was going on," Hicks told NewsChannel 15 Thursday. "I thought he was looking at the cars. It happened right under my nose and I couldn't help her. That made me mad."
Police immediately released a sketch of the suspected attacker . Dozens and dozens of tips flowed in, but the leads all were dead ends.
"It was an unbelievable crime to even hear over the police radio that day coming in. It's something you don't run into every day. It was terrible," DeKalb County Sheriff's Deputy Lee Stoy, said.
Then, in October 2009, the woman called Stoy saying she saw her attacker shopping at the Wal-Mart in Angola. But, by the time police got there, the man was gone. Once again, the investigation went cold.
It wasn't until four weeks ago that police made real progress again.
"On March 1, she once again called my cell phone and said she and her family were eating at the Pizza Hut in Angola and saw him with another woman eating," Stoy said.
This time Angola police were able to get the man's identification. Stoy and other detectives started a heavy investigation. Stoy's report in the probable cause said Staffod had access to two maroon cars in 2009, which fit the description of what he was driving.
Stoy contacted where Stafford worked, but after calling in sick one day, Stafford just didn't show up again. For ten days Stoy was trying to track down Stafford. Then he made contact with Stafford's girlfriend, who told him that Stafford was tipped off by his brother that police were looking for him. She told Stoy that Stafford told her that he was "wanted on a rape charge" in DeKalb County, the court documents said. The girlfriend told police where Stafford was staying with friends in Angola.
On March 13, police arrested Stafford on a warrant for failure to appear for an OWI charge in DeKalb County in 2010. Stafford told police that he was joking when he told his girlfriend he was wanted on a rape charge.
A DNA test was then conducted at the Indiana State Police lab in Fort Wayne to compare Stafford's DNA to that found in the woman's home in 2009. The results found that there was a one in fifty-million chance that someone other than Stafford left the DNA found in the carpet in 2009, the probable cause said.
"The biggest part is the victim gets some closure and for us as well. We got
closure with getting this dangerous man off the street," Stoy said.
Stoy didn't know if Stafford could be a suspect is any other similar crimes, but he wants the public to take a close look at him.
"If anyone else recognizes this person, call us or call any police department and report it," Stoy said.
Hicks also hopes his neighbor can start to heal.
"She's as sweet as can be," Hicks said. "She used to be outside all the time, but she's not been outside as much. Now she can get some relief and get back to normal life, I'm hoping."
As for Stafford, Hicks hopes justice is done.
"He needs to pay for what he did. At least now he can't hurt anyone else," he said.
Stafford faces five felony charges:
Count 1: Criminal Deviate Conduct: Class A Felony
Count 2: Kidnapping: Class A Felony
Count 3: Burglary: Class B Felony
Count 4: Criminal Confinement: Class B Felony
Count 5: Robbery While Armed with a Deadly Weapon: Class B Felony
A Class A Felony carries a sentence of 20-50 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000. A Class B Felony carries a sentence of 6-20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
A public defender will be assigned to Stafford. The judge set Stafford's bond at $260,000, saying the bond should reflect the "seriousness of the charges."
Stafford will be in court again on June 6 at 1 p.m.
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