Originally created 02/22/06

Suspect in rapes indicted



An Augusta man indicted Tuesday in the brutal January attack that left a woman in a coma is also accused of several other sexual assaults.

The Richmond County grand jury returned a 16-count indictment against Michael Christian Clay, 25, charging him in a series of sexual assaults dating back five years.

Mr. Clay is now charged with committing the Jan. 9 near-fatal attack on Sherry Rose Murphy, who is dependent on a ventilator and feeding tube to stay alive, according to court documents.

Mr. Clay is charged with aggravated sexual battery and aggravated assault in Ms. Murphy's attack. He also faces two more aggravated assault charges, four counts of rape, three counts of aggravated sodomy, two counts of kidnapping with bodily harm and a single count each of false imprisonment and robbery.

"CODIS (the FBI Laboratory Combined DNA Index System) linked all of the above cases together with DNA," Lt. Scott Peebles said.

"Good old-fashioned police work identified Clay as the suspect. One of the victims had seen the suspect in the area before and thought that he went by 'Chris.' Clay's middle name is Christian, and he goes by Chris. That's what got the ball rolling."

Mr. Clay has been in jail since Feb. 15, charged with assaulting David R. Barnes by striking him with a vehicle on East Boundary Street. He is also accused of beating a woman that day.

According to the indictment, Mr. Clay is accused of raping and beating women since May 4, 2000. The victim in the first case told detectives that she was walking to work in the early morning hours when a man on a bicycle grabbed her and pulled her into a cemetery at Nellieville and Sullivan Streets, according to a report in The Augusta Chronicle.

The next assault allegedly occurred May 25, 2000, when a woman told investigators she was kicked, beaten, sexually assaulted and left tied to a porch railing.

On July 20, 2000, another woman reported a sexual assault that Mr. Clay is now accused of committing. The next rape he is accused of committing occurred nearly three years later, on June 26, 2003.

Last month, a passerby spotted Ms. Murphy lying in a wooded area behind the Silver Bullet Lounge on Milledgeville.

Ms. Murphy, 43, suffered brain damage, broken bones and internal injuries. She isn't expected to recover from the coma, according to court documents.

Two days after she was found, according to the indictment, Mr. Clay allegedly beat another woman and stole her wallet.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com.