NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

May 16, 2014

26 years later, victim seeks justice

Among the more terrifying stories we’ve heard is the account given in Salem Superior Court by a woman who was raped 26 years ago, allegedly by convicted double-murderer Valentine Underwood.

Prosecutors say DNA evidence links Underwood to the heinous crime. And now, more than a quarter-century later, the victim finally has a chance at justice.

The unnamed woman was 24 years old on the night of May 20, 1988, when she was driving toward home in Lowell along River Road in Andover.

On the witness stand in Superior Court Tuesday, the woman told prosecutor Kate MacDougall another vehicle had been close behind her that night on River Road. The vehicle passed her car, then stopped in front of her and a man she described as “large” got out of the pickup truck.

The woman tried to turn around to flee but the man jumped over her car and came to the driver’s side window. She rolled the window down a bit to see what he wanted. The man reached in, opened the door and took her out of the car, she said.

Once in the man’s truck, she pleaded with him to let her go, even offering him money.

“He punched me in the head and told me to shut up,” she testified, as reported by The Eagle-Tribune’s Jill Harmacinski.

The man then drove around Essex County, raping her at various stops.

“I did what he told me to do because I was in fear for my life,” she testified.

The man began to drive north and at the Hampton tolls on Interstate 95 in New Hampshire, he told her to put her head on his lap so no one would see her in the truck. Just beyond the tolls, he pulled over and the woman thought he was going to let her go. He changed his mind and drove on.

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