Suspect in rape cases is missing

Special
Charles Anthony James

Deputies were searching Wednesday for a man mistakenly released from prison in Valdosta almost two weeks ago, even though he is charged in three sexual assaults in Richmond County.

Charles "Tony" Anthony James, 34, faces charges that include aggravated sodomy, kidnapping, armed robbery and aggravated battery in attacks on three women in May and June of 2008. Because no bond was set on those charges, he should still be in custody. But he was released from Valdosta State Prison on Dec. 27, District Attorney Ashley Wright confirmed Wednesday.

From Valdosta, Mr. James boarded a bus bound for Augusta, according to Richmond County sheriff's Lt. Scott Peebles.

Mr. James was on parole when three victims were attacked in increasingly brutal assaults in 2008. He had been released from an electronic monitor just hours before the first attack occurred May 19. After he was arrested on the sexual assault charges, Mr. James' parole was revoked and he was sent back to prison to complete a 10-year sentence for a Dec. 27, 1999, robbery.

Mr. James completed that prison sentence on Dec. 27 and was released.

Normally, Ms. Wright said, the Department of Corrections will contact the sheriff's department and usually the district attorney's office that they need to file a detainer notice, which would have enabled Richmond County to pick him up. But no one contacted either office, Ms. Wright said..

In May 2008, in two separate incidents in the Harrisburg neighborhood, women reported they were walking when a man in a pickup offered them a ride. Both reported being attacked, although the first victim was able to escape from the truck. The next victim, and a woman who accepted a ride on June 18 told investigators they were trapped in the truck because the door handle and the window lever on the passenger side had been removed.

The woman attacked in June was found in a pool of blood behind a business off Mike Padgett Highway. Her knife wounds required surgery, according to reports in The Augusta Chronicle .

According to a search warrant used to look for evidence at Mr. James' home, the attacker had shaved off all of his body hair, used condoms and took all of the women's clothing and any items that might have yielded forensic evidence. According to the search warrant documents, officers found a large red stain on the seat of Mr. James' truck and found women's clothing in a trash can, along with items they believe contained DNA evidence.

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