CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Roger Dale Honeycutt was convicted by a jury Friday of raping two Charlotte women in 1981.
The 62-year-old Kannapolis man was sentenced to a minimum of 60 years in prison, and a maximum of 140 years.
The jury deliberated about three hours before convicting him on two counts of second-degree rape, two counts of second-degree sexual offense and two counts of first-degree burglary.
The defense rested its case earlier Friday without presenting any evidence or calling Honeycutt to the witness stand.
Three decades after the crimes, police say they obtained DNA linking Honeycutt to both sexual assaults.
Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Barry Cook spent much of his closing argument talking to the jurors about the DNA evidence linking Honeycutt to the rapes.
He called DNA evidence “accepted science.”
“I submit to you that DNA evidence is inherently reliable,” the prosecutor said.
Cook also told jurors that DNA evidence has been used to free people who’ve been wrongly convicted. The prosecutor said the DNA showed Honeycutt was connected to the crimes.
“It is all about the science,” Cook told the jurors, “all about the numbers.”
A forensic DNA analyst testified Thursday that DNA from the two rape kits matched Honeycutt’s DNA profile. She said there’s a one in 36 billion chance that the DNA in one of the rapes belonged to someone other than Honeycutt.
She said there was a 1 in 16 million chance the DNA in the other rape belonged to someone other than Honeycutt.
But defense attorney Bill Soukup told jurors his client didn’t commit the crimes. He said the only evidence linking Honeycutt to the rapes are a set of partial DNA profiles.
Soukup also argued that the DNA evidence had degraded since the rapes 32 years ago. He talked about the DNA numbers, calling them “impressive” and “dazzling.”
“But I don’t know if they’re very illuminating,” he told the jurors.
The defense lawyer also told jurors there’s no question the two women had been raped.
“They’re entitled to justice,” Soukup said of the women. “But Roger Honeycutt is entitled to justice too.”
The two women Honeycutt is accused of raping have both taken the witness stand. On Thursday, one of the women, who was 26 years old when she was raped, told jurors that she couldn’t believe that her attacker wouldn’t harm her.
“It occurred to me that this might be the end,” she said.
Her assailant, she testified, had instructed her not to look at him.
She recalled what the man said to her as he left after the sexual assault.
“He told me to go back to sleep and pretend it never happened,” she said.
The other rape victim testified Tuesday. She was 23 years old and five months pregnant when the sexual assault took place. She too was told not to scream and she wouldn’t be hurt.
Now 55 years old, she told jurors how she pleaded with her attacker. “I’m pregnant. Please don’t hurt my baby,” she recalled telling the man.
Neither rape victim identified Honeycutt as the assailant.