Victim of 'ski-mask' rapist gets justice decades later

Victim of 'ski-mask' rapist gets justice decades later

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by BORA KIM / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @BoraKimWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on November 14, 2013 at 5:47 AM

Updated Thursday, Nov 14 at 10:01 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A local woman is speaking out, sharing her story as one of the victims of the 'ski-mask' rapist.

Mindy Sypher was just 20 years old when she was attacked inside her home. Til this day, Sypher says her heart races, and she gets a knot in her stomach,  seeing the face of the now 63-year-old Jerry Lee Brooks.

Days before he was to go to trial for the rape of three women in 1979, he pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to life in prison.

As part of the deal, he also confessed to attacking other victims, including Sypher, in 1979.

"He talked about six other cases and one of which was mine in detail, details only he and I would know.”

Sypher was a theatre major, studying at UNCC, and working in fashion.  In September 1979, she headed to her apartment after work, only to find she wasn't alone.

"I noticed the front door, was slightly opened, it was cracked. I said to myself, I know I shut that door," she recalls.

"The second I reached to shut the door, he was on my right, and he jumped on me."

He had on a ski mask.

"He was also wearing clean white pressed tennis shorts, white shirt with a collar. You noticed details, his hands were manicured, I mean they were polished,” she said.

He said he was going to rob her, but his demands quickly changed.

"Took the rest of my clothes off, threw me down, raped me, tied me up with my panty hose and bra. He said now, I do have a knife, and if you tell anybody or call the police, I will be back to kill you.”

She called a friend after he left.  The weeks were quickly followed with several interviews with investigators. She remembers meeting other victims, who shared her appearance, and other similarities.

She had hoped it would aide investigators in finding the rapist.

More than 30 years passed, and she admitted, every year on the day of her raped she would quietly slip into a depressive state,  fearing her rapist would never be found.

Then, last year, Sypher could not believe her eyes, when she saw the very eyes of her attacker peering upon her, as his picture flashed on TV following his arrest.

She reconnected with a detective working the cold case for CMPD's sexual assault unit.

The unit resurrected the case when the DNA Brooks submitted after his conviction for bank robbery, matched the evidence collected from the three rape cases back in 1979.

"It is a hard thing to get over, I'm still not over it. For it to come full circle now, even from last summer, it's a huge step for me," she said.

She found out, the remaining forensic evidence from her case was not enough to convict Brooks, but his confession, sealed what she had known all along.
 
"But I am doing this, for closure, and more importantly, a voice for women. How many people did he rape, that was not reported, before during, after," she asked.

 “I can't see that, he is remorseful. He is sick. In a way, I don't think any of us will ever understand why, but why did he decided to come out, he knew he was caught.”

Investigators believe there may be more victims out there. As they try and contact the victims they know of, she remains grateful to the detectives who never gave up and saw this case through.
 
“ I told him yesterday on the phone, you are my knight in shining armor. You have brought this man and put him away, and gave me closure,” she said.

Sypher says she has made strides in her personal life to reflect her transformation from victim, to advocate.

Two years ago, she remarried.
 
"Every year on the 21st of September, I remember the whole thing over again, but I elected not to have that week be my pity party anymore," she said.

"I got married on September 25th. I've turned that week into something I could look forward to instead something that hurts.”

She now has a new date to remember: 11-12-13, the day she says her nightmare came full circle.
 
"I want to be a voice for the women, I want women to come forward.  There is no shame, someone has taken something from you, need to report it.”
 
"I want him to know, he did not win, we have. We survived, we are the survivors, he is the one going to pay."
 

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