Suspect in series of sexual assaults convicted of rape in Dare

By on August 21, 2014

convicted

(Virginia Beach Police Department)

Eleven years after a woman was attacked on a Kill Devil Hills beach, a 40-year-old South African national was found guilty Thursday of first-degree rape, the first conviction in a series of sexual offenses police say he committed in North Carolina and Virginia.

Lesiba Simon Matsoake was sentenced to 20 to 25 years, the maximum the law allows, for choking and raping a 26-year-old Kill Devil Hills bartender on June 10, 2003, shortly after she had taken an early-morning dip in the ocean.

“I think you’re a predator,” Superior Court Judge Wayland Sermons told Matsoake.

Sermons was unimpressed with Matsoake’s stated habit of reading the Bible, saying that the court could only conclude that the defendant was praying “that evidence would be lost.”

Matsoake did not testify on his own behalf and declined to make a statement to the court. In addition to his prison sentence, the judge ordered that he pay $15,750 for attorney fees.

According to testimony in the 3½-day trial in Dare County, Matsoake, who had permanent resident status, had fled the U.S. in 2007 after learning that he was wanted in a string of attacks on the Outer Banks and Virginia Beach. He was extradited from South Africa in 2012 and held on $1 million bond in the Dare County Detention Center.

District Attorney Seth Edwards from Washington County said that Matsoake was also charged with first-degree rape in a June 25, 2003 attack on a woman in Duck. That trial is pending, he said.

Matsoake is facing charges of sexual assault against three women in Virginia Beach, according to a Jan. 31, 2012 report by WVEC.com. Two of the offenses occurred in 2004, and another in late 2006.

Edwards said that the judge did not allow the additional charges to be mentioned to the jury.

In his opening statement, Edwards told jurors that Matsoake’s then-wife, Ruth Hart, had called police in 2007 to tell them she had reason to believe that her husband had committed the rape and said that he had left behind hair clippers.

The hair provided the DNA evidence that connected the defendant to the crimes.

But Public Defender Thomas Routten said the transmission of evidence from the town police to the laboratory went through many hands and left plenty of room for errors.

In reminding the jury that the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, he said the victim never mentioned the defendant’s South African accent. He also argued that the charge did not meet the standard of a first-degree rape, which involves serious mental, physical or bodily injury.

On the night of the attack, the victim, today a 37-year-old mother who lives in Williamsburg, Va., testified that she and her now-husband, along with several other couples, were partying at Port O’ Call Restaurant & Gaslight Saloon in Kill Devil Hills.

At about 2 a.m., she testified, she and her girlfriend left the bar and walked across the street to the beach by Pelican Shores.

Assuming their boyfriends would be following them, she testified, the women decided to go in the water. A strong swimmer, her girlfriend stripped off her clothes and plunged into the ocean. But she did not want to swim, the victim testified, and took off her pants to wade in knee-deep.

“Obviously, before I pulled my pants down, I looked up and down the beach,” she testified.

Soon, she felt someone staring, and she turned around and saw a man.

“It freaked me out,” she told the court. “I remember telling him that my friends were coming and you need to leave.”

After that, she testified, he threw her down. She flung sand at his eyes and grabbed his face. He started choking her and bit her ring finger. When she started losing her breath, she decided to stop fighting, and he let go and ran away.

“I think he may have thought that he had killed me,” she testified.

But she saw his face, and his eyes.

“They were the most soulless, and just dark and most evil I had ever seen,” she testified.

She ran to a cottage nearby, and a couple there called police.

In addition to a scar from the bite, the victim said she has suffered long-term anxiety and fear and has required counseling and medication.

Hart, who was married to Matsoake from 2001 to 2012, later testified that there were issues with domestic abuse in the marriage.

At one point after the assaults her husband was later charged with committing, Hart testified, she saw him looking at a composite sketch of the offender in the newspaper, and he was crying.

Matsoake, who had no criminal record, was identified as a suspect in the five assaults in early 2007 after DNA from the hair clippers matched semen and other evidence.

It took the jury about 30 minutes to find the defendant guilty of first-degree rape.

Broad shouldered, with a shaved head, Matsoake, after watching attentively during most of the testimony, sat stooped in his seat, looking down at the table as the verdict was read.

Routten, the public defender, said that his client gets three years credit for time served. He will be held without bond during the duration of his appeal.

Recent posts in this category

Recent posts in this category

Comments are closed.