Early in the morning and over a period of three September weeks, a man terrorized women in their homes when he broke in, threatened their lives, then sexually assaulted them.
Shaheem French, 21, of Toledo was found guilty Friday by a Lucas County Common Pleas jury. He faces up to 129 1/2 years in prison for the series of attacks.
French, 552 Leach St., was convicted of 14 felony charges, including four counts of rape, three counts each of aggravated burglary and aggravated robbery, two counts of kidnapping, and one count each of attempted rape and gross sexual imposition. He will be sentenced March 27.
Handcuffed and seated at the defense table, he showed little emotion as Judge Gary Cook read the jury's decision.
"It's obviously a traumatic situation for these women, and the person who did this is now in prison," Assistant County Prosecutor Jennifer Donovan said after French was led from the courtroom.
Throughout the four-day trial, 18 witnesses testified about a series of attacks on five women - four of which resulted in sexual assaults. The first of the assaults occurred in September, 2005. Three years later, in September of last year, three women were attacked in their homes.
French was acquitted on the two charges related to a fifth incident involving a 13-year-old girl who was grabbed Sept. 17 while walking to a bus stop at Oak Street but broke free from her assailant. He was found not guilty of kidnapping and aggravated robbery.
The jury of seven women and five men deliberated for more than four hours over two days before returning their verdicts. Attorney John Thebes said he was gratified that the jury took its time and returned the two not-guilty verdicts, saying that it showed that each case was considered individually.
Before reaching their verdicts, jurors heard testimony from several law enforcement officers about the separate investigations that eventually led to one suspect. Also testifying were the four victims who spoke about their encounters with a strange man. Three of the victims were in their bedrooms when they were assaulted by the man armed with either a knife or a screwdriver.
During closing arguments Thursday, assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Lambdin outlined the 16 charges against French and one by one, reviewed the assaults that began when a 14-year-old girl was grabbed from Cherry Street near Central Catholic High School on her way to Scott High School in 2005.
The victim testified she was taken into a desolate area nearby, hit in the face twice, and raped. As he left, her assailant told her she was lucky he didn't kill her.
French was the primary suspect after he was identified in a photo lineup shown to the victim a year later. The case stalled when the victim failed to cooperate at the time.
In September, a series of sexual assaults led investigators back to French. DNA from each scene linked him to each of the crimes.
The victims did not appear in court for the verdicts, nor did members of French's family.
Contact Erica Blake at:
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