‘I froze:’ Victim testifies in rape case preliminary hearing

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Jerome White (Courtesy VPRJ)
Jerome White (Courtesy VPRJ)

The case against a man accused of raping a William & Mary student outside apartments on Scotland Street in December will head to a grand jury.

After tearful testimony from the student and statements from the officer who first came upon the scene, General District Court Judge Colleen Killilea determined there was probable cause to move the case to the Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.

The rape case against Jerome White, 50, will head to the May 19 grand jury. If the grand jury determines there is sufficient evidence, the case will go to trial in circuit court.

Police believe White raped the student outside on Scotland Street around 2 a.m. on Dec. 3, according to a criminal complaint filed in open court.

The preliminary hearing Thursday consisted mostly of testimony from the alleged victim in the incident. Prosecutors did not ask for testimony from other sworn witnesses, including two other Williamsburg Police officers and Williamsburg Police investigator Lang Craighill.

The victim said she had a drink at a few friends’ parties Dec. 2, then went to the College Delly and had several more drinks. She left when the bars were closing around 2 a.m., and left to walk back home to her apartment around the corner at King and Queen Apartments, she said.

She encountered White on her walk home, she said, and he struck up a “light” conversation.

“He told me I was a pretty girl” and “he would take care of me,” she said, adding that he also told her his name.

A “few minutes” into their conversation, he grabbed her shoulders and she found herself on the ground, she testified.

“He said ‘You’re okay, it’s fine,’” the victim testified. “… I was looking at my bedroom window when he was on top of me.”

The victim added that she told him to stop, but was unsure if she yelled or said it loudly, testifying that “I froze” as the rape occurred.

She described the moments after the incident as an “out of body experience” and said she didn’t remember much besides trying to find one of her Converse sneakers. She remembered ending up on a lawn near the First Baptist Church on Scotland Street, where a police officer pulled up on the street with his lights on.

Williamsburg Police Sgt. Bruce Johnson testified in court that he heard a “loud noise like a gunshot” and saw a man with his arm around a woman’s shoulder near the First Baptist Church after 2 a.m. Dec. 3.

He testified he thought the situation looked like a domestic argument, but the man walked away when he approached the two. The woman was not wearing a coat and was carrying her right shoe, he said. She also appeared to have been crying and walked “real slow, like a child that was scared,” he said.

When he talked with her, the woman’s lips moved, but he could not hear what she said. He walked her home to her apartment and tried to find out what was wrong, but she did not say. She went inside her apartment, and the officer left.

The victim testified she was unsure whether she should report the rape at first, but told her roommate after the officer left. The roommate encouraged her to report it, she said.

White was located by assisting officers several minutes later at the Wawa convenience store at 315 Richmond Rd.

Confusion about who would be White’s defense attorney also sprung up before the preliminary hearing began. While attorney Paul Freeman had been appointed to represent White earlier in the case, attorney Patricia Nagel came to the hearing Thursday, stating White’s family planned to retain her.

Killilea declined to substitute Freeman with Nagel for the preliminary hearing, stating that the preliminary hearing had already been continued for over two months and many witnesses, family members and friends were present in the courtroom Thursday.

Prosecutor Katey Fennig said three family members had traveled from out of state to come to the hearing.

Nagel offered to be retained pro bono while the family gathered money to retain her, but Killilea did not allow Nagel to step in because she said she was not prepared to proceed with the preliminary hearing Thursday.

Both Freeman and Nagel declined to comment on the case after the preliminary hearing.

Court documents state White was released just before the alleged incident from the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail on Nov. 14.

Fearing can be reached at sarah.f@localvoicemedia.com.