Witnesses recall fake eye of man charged in sexual assaults that began in Old Town Saginaw

Witnesses recall fake eye of man charged in sexual assaults that began in Old Town Saginaw 2014 Larry Currington Assault Case

http://www.mlive.com/news/saginaw/index.ssf/2014/10/suspect_in_sexual_assaults_tha.html

SAGINAW, MI — It’s Larry D. Currington’s eyes, multiple women say, that make him stand out as the person they say assaulted them and sexually assaulted them in a series of incidents that began in Saginaw’s Old Town district.

Asked in court to identify the man who assaulted them in August and September, three women on Monday, Oct. 13, pointed to Currington’s eyes, one of which is artificial, in their identifications.

“All I saw was the knife,” a 22-year-old woman told Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson. “The knife and those eyes.”

Larry D. Currington removed his glasses so witnesses could identify him during his Oct. 13, 2014, preliminary hearing in front of Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson. Currington, 54, was charged with 19 felonies in connection with two sexual assaults and a third assault on a woman that began in Saginaw’s Old Town district. Thompson bound him over for trial for 16 of the felonies.

Three women and one of the women’s boyfriends took the stand Monday during Currington’s preliminary hearing, intended for Thompson to determine whether probable cause existed for Currington to stand trial in Circuit Court on 19 felonies in connection with the three assaults.

Currington is charged with carjacking and kidnapping a 35-year-old woman in her employer’s parking lot near South Niagara on Aug. 19 and a 21-year-old woman in a parking lot at South Hamilton and Cass on Sept. 6, driving each of them to Wickes Park Drive near Fordney and the Rust Street Bridge on Saginaw’s South Side, and sexually assaulting them before threatening them to not report the incidents to police.

He also is charged in connection with a Sept. 14 incident when prosecutor’s allege he entered the 22-year-old woman’s car, in the same parking lot as the second incident, immediately after her boyfriend walked her to her vehicle, the woman testified. Currington only was able to tell the woman to shut up twice before the boyfriend pulled him out of the car, the woman testified.

Currington was able to flee, but Michigan State Police troopers arrested him within four days of that final incident. State police crime lab experts were able to match Currington’s DNA to that of his saliva left on the second victim, DNA analyst Joni Johnson testified.

Based on the victims’ identification of Currington and the DNA evidence, Thompson ruled probable cause existed for Currington to stand trial on 16 of the 19 felonies with which prosecutors charged him. Thompson dismissed one of the eight charges Currington faced in the second incident and two of the three charges Currington faced in the third incident.

‘I knew he was going to rape me’

In the first incident, Currington is charged with armed robbery, carjacking, kidnapping, two counts of first-degree and a single count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a weapon, extortion, and assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder.

Larry Currington preliminary hearing in connection with sexual assaults that began in Saginaw's Old Town districtSaginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Janetsky questions one of the victims about the length of her attacker’s machete during the Oct. 13, 2014, preliminary hearing for Larry D. Currington in front of Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson.

The victim, the 35-year-old woman, testified she was leaving work about 4:30 p.m. when somebody approached her with a machete and asked her what she had in her purse. The woman gave the man $20 and told him to leave because her co-workers soon would be leaving work as well, she testified.

At that point, the man forced the woman into the back of her vehicle and drove away, she said. The man parked by the Saginaw River near a willow tree, the woman said; while she did not take police back to the location, she was able to pinpoint the location, off Wickes Park Drive, on Google’s Street View feature, she said.

Once there, the woman and her attacker struggled for an extended period of time before the woman was able to get out of the car and roll toward the river bank and try to swim away, she testified. She ended up on the river embankment, though, and was “completely isolated” from any passersby, she testified.

“I knew he was going to rape me,” she said.

The attacker raped her, and when he was done, he repeated her address to her in an effort to convince her not to call police, she testified. The woman assured him she would not call the police but explained she had to go to the hospital because her right hand was sliced by the machete during the struggle, she said.

At an area hospital, she lied about how she hurt her hand, she said. After encouragement from two close friends, the woman called police the next day, she testified.

Shortly into the woman’s testimony, Thompson interrupted county Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Janetsky and asked the woman if she was able to identify her attacker. The woman said the attacker was not wearing glasses and did not have a beard — two features Currington had Monday. Janetsky pressed her later about whether she could identify Currington, and Currington eventually took off his glasses.

The woman immediately slid her chair back as if she was in fear, and after she composed herself with deep breaths, she said, “Given his facial features, he looks very similar to my assailant.”

‘Very bone chilling’

In the second incident, Currington now is charged with carjacking, kidnapping, three counts of first-degree and one count of second-degree criminal sexual conduct, and extortion. Thompson dismissed a charge of attempted armed robbery, which Janetsky had reduced from an initial charge of armed robbery.

The victim in that case, the 21-year-old woman, testified she traveled to Hamilton Street about 10:30 p.m. to see her friends’ band. She sat in her car for about 10 minutes on the phone, and when she ended the call, she went to open her door but realized she had not grabbed her driver’s license. After she reached to grab the license, a man entered her vehicle, pushed her head down, and got on top of her, the woman testified.

The man put a knife with a blade approximately six inches long to her throat and told her to be quiet and move over into the passenger seat, the woman said. The man said he needed a ride, drove to a park, and then parked near a willow tree, the woman testified.

Larry Currington preliminary hearing in connection with sexual assaults that began in Saginaw's Old Town districtLarry D. Currington listens to testimony as his attorney Matthew Frey questions a witness during Currington’s Oct. 13, 2014, preliminary hearing in front of Saginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson.

The woman asked the man if he needed anything else, but after telling her that her drive back to Hamilton Street was simple, he told her he wasn’t going anywhere until they had sex, she testified.

The woman explained she was a Catholic who had kept her virginity, but the man sexually assaulted her in an effort to somehow prove whether she was a virgin, the woman testified.

She began crying, and the man picked up the knife and threatened to remove her eyes if she did not stop crying, the woman testified. After the woman refused to allow the man to give her oral sex, the man instead sexually assaulted her with the knife, she said.

He eventually gathered his things and left, trying to convince her not to call the police because he let her go, she testified.

The woman called police about two hours later and underwent a rape kit a short time later. Johnson, the state police expert, was able to match Currington’s DNA from swabs collected from the woman, she testified.

The woman explained that Currington had “very, very distinctive eyes” and had “very bone chilling” direct eye contact with one of Currington’s eyes, but his other eye did not stare at her, she said.

The robbery charge that Currington faced was in connection with him asking the woman how much money she had. When she said she only had $6, Currington did not demand she hand him the money, the woman testified.

Thompson cited Currington’s decision not to take the money in dismissing the robbery charge.

‘Bug eyes’

In the third incident, Currington now is charged with felonious assault, or assault with a dangerous weapon. Thompson dismissed felony charges of attempted carjacking and attempted kidnapping.

The victim in that case testified she and her boyfriend were walking back from a bar and that her boyfriend walked her to her vehicle. After she put her key in the ignition, somebody tried to open the door, but she resisted, she testified. The attacker then “ripped” the door open and entered the vehicle, the woman said.

The woman screamed multiple times, and the man told her to shut up twice, she said. That’s when her boyfriend pulled the man out of the vehicle, she said.

The boyfriend testified he had just sat in his vehicle, which was across the small parking lot from his girlfriend’s vehicle, when he looked back and saw somebody enter his girlfriend’s vehicle. He got out of the car even though he had released the vehicle’s emergency brake, grabbed the man by the back of his hoodie, and said, “Who the (expletive) are you, man?”

The boyfriend was about to put his fists up to fight the man, but the man quickly pushed him on his back and fled, the boyfriend said. When he tried to get up to chase after the man, the boyfriend’s vehicle had started rolling toward him, he testified.

The woman and her boyfriend both quickly identified Currington, though the boyfriend needed Currington to take his glasses off. The woman said she recognized Currington because of his “bug eyes” and “broad forehead.”

Janetsky, the prosecutor, cited court rules regarding character evidence of propensity to commit other crimes in arguing that, despite the relative weakness of the first victim’s identification and Currington’s failed third attempt, the judge should bind Currington over for trial on all counts.

Larry Currington preliminary hearing in connection with sexual assaults that began in Saginaw's Old Town districtSaginaw County District Judge M.T. Thompson asks one of the victims a question during the Oct. 13, 2014, preliminary hearing for Larry D. Currington.

Thompson disagreed, saying that because Currington only told the woman to “shut up,” he would be assuming what Currington’s intentions were in the third incident.

“While I think you can guess or assume that those were probably his intentions, he certainly didn’t verbalize his intentions,” Thompson said. “He didn’t say anything to her other than to shut up.”

Janetsky argued Currington’s intentions were derived from his similar acts, but the judge again disagreed.

“Well, I’m not going to assume what he would do,” the judge said.

Thompson then referred to the lower penalties that the attempt charges carry compared to the other offenses for which he bound Currington over. Most of the other charges that Thompson bound Currington over on carry maximum penalties of life in prison with the possibility of parole.

If Currington is convicted in his current case, he will face a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence because prosecutors have charged him as a violent fourth-or-subsequent-time offender.

Currington served about 29 years in prison for two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two other offenses for a Nov. 28, 1983, rape in downtown Saginaw. He was released from prison on July 17, 2012, and from parole on July 17 of this year, according to county Prosecutor John McColgan Jr.

The facts from that case are similar to this summer’s incidents, as Currington pulled a knife on a woman who was leaving work in downtown Saginaw and ultimately raped her.

Prior to that case, Currington served multiple years in an Iowa prison for a 1978 felony burglary case, authorities have said. He first was sentenced to five years probation, but after violating probation in 1979, he was sentenced to the maximum of 10 years in prison, authorities said. He gained early release from prison in that case.

Currington remains lodged in the Saginaw County Jail without bond.

— Andy Hoag covers courts for MLive/The Saginaw News. Email him at ahoag@mlive.com or follow him on Twitter @awhoag

2014 Larry Currington Assault Case