‘I was assuming I was going to die,’ woman testifies in trial of man accused of raping her three years ago

Cristopher Centers

The trial of a man the Sarpy County Sheriff once called ‘armed and dangerous’ begins in Sarpy County.Stephen Prior, 55, is standing trial on several felonies including sexual assault, burglary and robbery. He’s accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home near 156th and Giles in October 2017. The […]

The trial of a man the Sarpy County Sheriff once called ‘armed and dangerous’ begins in Sarpy County.Stephen Prior, 55, is standing trial on several felonies including sexual assault, burglary and robbery. He’s accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home near 156th and Giles in October 2017. The alleged victim was the first witness called to the stand. She testified for hours Tuesday afternoon, recalling in detail the night of the attack in her home. A medical student at the time, who no longer lives in Nebraska, said she returned home after a 15 hour day, ate dinner and went to bed around 10 p.m. She said her routine was to park in her garage, leave the garage door open and walk across the street to get her mail. She said she was awoken from her sleep around 11:30 p.m.”I remember waking up and having a bright, white light shining in my eyes and someone standing over me wearing a mask who said, ­­­­­’Put your hands up. I just want your money.’ and I noticed they were holding a gun,” she said. “I kept pleading for him not to kill me.”Back in 2017, investigators allege Prior routinely patrolled neighborhoods near Chalco Hills with a half dozen reports of suspicious activity, all linked to Prior. At a previous hearing, he told a judge he had a reason for being there.”Can I say something?” Prior asked the judge. “My mom lives just a few blocks from there. That’s why I was over there.”The alleged victim was sitting in the courtroom for that hearing and told the jury Tuesday she heard that voice before.”It was the voice of the person who raped me,” she testified.Prosecutor Gage Cobb asked her, “How certain?””One hundred percent. I will never forget that voice,” she said.She said the man blindfolded her and tied her wrists and ankles with a with a white rope. She said at first he told her he wanted her money and forced her downstairs by gunpoint, she said, to give him about $60 in her purse. She said he then took her back up to her bedroom and said, “I’m going to be here a while.”Throughout the attack, she testified the man kept telling her, ‘Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.’ But she said through her blindfold, she saw ‘dishelved, gray hair’, as well as surgical scars on his abdomen.With her medical training, she recognized the scars as such.When Cobb asked her how she felt during the attack, she said, “Terrified.””He told me if I ever told anybody, he would come and find me and kill me and that was a promise.”She said the man forced her to take a shower and use water to wash out her mouth. She said he peaked his head in the bathroom door and told her, “I’m still here. I’m still here.”Once she realized he left, she said she got dressed and drove to a friend’s house.Prior’s attorneys objected to having a camera in the courtroom, saying based on the high emotional and public interest in the case, coverage would deprive Prior of a fair and impartial trial.

The trial of a man the Sarpy County Sheriff once called ‘armed and dangerous’ begins in Sarpy County.

Stephen Prior, 55, is standing trial on several felonies including sexual assault, burglary and robbery. He’s accused of sexually assaulting a woman in her home near 156th and Giles in October 2017.

The alleged victim was the first witness called to the stand. She testified for hours Tuesday afternoon, recalling in detail the night of the attack in her home.

A medical student at the time, who no longer lives in Nebraska, said she returned home after a 15 hour day, ate dinner and went to bed around 10 p.m. She said her routine was to park in her garage, leave the garage door open and walk across the street to get her mail.

She said she was awoken from her sleep around 11:30 p.m.

“I remember waking up and having a bright, white light shining in my eyes and someone standing over me wearing a mask who said, ­­­­­’Put your hands up. I just want your money.’ and I noticed they were holding a gun,” she said. “I kept pleading for him not to kill me.”

Back in 2017, investigators allege Prior routinely patrolled neighborhoods near Chalco Hills with a half dozen reports of suspicious activity, all linked to Prior. At a previous hearing, he told a judge he had a reason for being there.

“Can I say something?” Prior asked the judge. “My mom lives just a few blocks from there. That’s why I was over there.”

The alleged victim was sitting in the courtroom for that hearing and told the jury Tuesday she heard that voice before.

“It was the voice of the person who raped me,” she testified.

Prosecutor Gage Cobb asked her, “How certain?”

“One hundred percent. I will never forget that voice,” she said.

She said the man blindfolded her and tied her wrists and ankles with a with a white rope. She said at first he told her he wanted her money and forced her downstairs by gunpoint, she said, to give him about $60 in her purse. She said he then took her back up to her bedroom and said, “I’m going to be here a while.”

Throughout the attack, she testified the man kept telling her, ‘Don’t look at me. Don’t look at me.’ But she said through her blindfold, she saw ‘dishelved, gray hair’, as well as surgical scars on his abdomen.

With her medical training, she recognized the scars as such.

When Cobb asked her how she felt during the attack, she said, “Terrified.”

“He told me if I ever told anybody, he would come and find me and kill me and that was a promise.”

She said the man forced her to take a shower and use water to wash out her mouth. She said he peaked his head in the bathroom door and told her, “I’m still here. I’m still here.”

Once she realized he left, she said she got dressed and drove to a friend’s house.

Prior’s attorneys objected to having a camera in the courtroom, saying based on the high emotional and public interest in the case, coverage would deprive Prior of a fair and impartial trial.

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