West Augusta rapist is convicted on all counts

Judge sentences man to maximum sentence

The man who terrorized women living in west Augusta apartment complexes in the summer of 2008 was convicted of all counts Thursday and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

 

It took a Richmond County Superior Court jury only about an hour Thursday afternoon to decide Jared U. Baxter, 31, was guilty of nine charges of burglary, terroristic threats, rape, kidnapping and peeping Tom.

According to witnesses who testified this week, Baxter broke into the homes of three women who lived in apartment complexes off of Stevens Creek Road in the summer of 2008. Two of the women were able to fight off Baxter and escape. The third woman, faced with a masked man armed with a knife, was raped.

The three women described the fear they faced when attacked and the fear they still live with every day. They asked the judge to impose the maximum sentence possible. "He's never going to change," one of the victims said.

Judge Sheryl B. Jolly sentenced Baxter to the maximum possible for each crime and ordered the sentences to run consecutively for a total of life in prison without parole plus 100 years.

Baxter testified in his own defense Thursday and denied attacking the women. He admitted that he was peeping into an apartment in the early morning hours of July 17, 2008, when Richmond County Sheriff officers caught him in the act.

While Baxter described that incident as an accidental encounter with a partially open window blind, he couldn't explain how he happened to videotape 38 to 40 women at the moment when they were naked. The videos were found on Baxter's computer and camera.

"I never sat outside anyone's window," Baxter insisted.

In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Hank Syms painted a different picture of Baxter's habits.

Baxter got a thrill out of getting away with peeping at women, but eventually his behavior had to escalate so he could get the same high, Syms said. Baxter started attacking the women he spied on, Syms said.

Defense attorney Richard Allen argued to the jury that an alibi witness cleared Baxter of the rape.

And a second defense witness testified he was with Baxter within minutes of one of the other attacks, Allen said.

Allen tried to convince the jury that the state's case had too many holes -- no eye witness identification, no DNA, no fingerprints.

"There's just too much missing."

But Syms reminded the jury that the woman who was raped testified she knew it was Baxter.

"Those eyes were burned into (the woman's) memory as she was raped and humiliated," Syms said.

And Syms reminded the jury that Baxter forced the woman to shower and wash after the rape. For the defense to point out the lack of DNA "is kind of like the guy who killed his parents then asked the judge for mercy because he was an orphan.''