Teen receives life sentence for raping woman in store

An Augusta teenager pleaded guilty Tuesday to the rape of a woman in a clothing store bathroom.

The guilty pleas cut short the Richmond County Superior Court two-day trial for Michael A. Whitmore, 18.

Assistant District Attorney Adam King said Mr. Whitmore pleaded guilty to rape, aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, armed robbery and a weapon charge. He was sentenced to life in prison plus five years. Mr. King prosecuted Mr. Whitmore for the sexual assault of a woman at gunpoint in the restroom of Goody's Family Clothing in south Augusta on Feb. 5, 2007.

After the assault, Mr. Whitmore walked the victim to the store's front door. That's when the 25-year-old mother of two dropped a clue before the store employees.

Estelle Batiste testified Tuesday morning that she entered the restroom that afternoon to hear a woman crying. Two voices said they were having sex, Ms. Batiste said. She told them to leave.

She was already worried something was wrong when Mr. Whitmore walked the woman past her and the victim dropped her purse, Ms. Batiste testified.

Mr. Whitmore brought the woman back into the store and asked whether the employees had found her purse, Ms. Batiste testified. The woman edged away from Mr. Whitmore and slid to the floor sobbing, she testified.

Mr. Whitmore tried to tell Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Richard Roundtree that he found the distraught woman and only intended to walk her to her car. Later he said she initiated the sexual encounter. He denied having a weapon. The victim told investigators Mr. Whitmore raped her at gunpoint.

After a store video was shown on television, the sheriff's office received a tip the next day that the suspect was Mr. Whitmore. Detectives found a realistic replica of a handgun at his home.