Attack victim: ‘I wanted God to let me die’
Disturbing testimony Monday from the victim of a rape, assault and robbery last November helped compel District Judge J.E. DeVilbiss to bind Donald Franklin Erwin over for trial.
The 44-year-old Rifle man stands accused of beating and raping a 77-year-old woman the night of Nov. 30, 2001. He appeared in Ninth District Court late Monday afternoon to face a preliminary hearing on seven charges including attempted first-degree murder and sexual assault on an at-risk adult.
Although an arraignment hearing had been scheduled immediately after the preliminary hearing, the arraignment – the hearing in which a plea is entered – was continued until Thursday. The continuation came after Erwin’s public defender, Jamie Roth, brought up a request for specific advisement about the consequences of entering a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. The complexity of the request at such a late time of day in court terms – 6:30 p.m. – brought about the continuance.
During the hearing, the prosecution, headed up by deputy district attorney Gretchen Larsen, called two witnesses: the victim and Rifle police detective Bill Jones.
The victim said the incident started when she heard something being thrown against a wall and a loud squeal that she soon realized might be her 6-week old puppy.
Moments later, as the victim attempted to turn on her light, the light turned on and Erwin was standing there, she said. She knew who Erwin was.
“I could see Frankie and I said, `Frankie?’ He said, `Don’t call me Frankie. I’m not Frankie,'” the victim said.
He allegedly then proceeded to sexually assault the victim while threatening her life, she said. He also punched her in the stomach and slapped her in the face as he overpowered her and had his way with her, she said.
“He said, `If you make a sound, I will kill you,'” she said.
Once the attack was over, he allegedly covered her up with sheets and blankets, hogtied her feet and hands behind her back, then struck her with a heavy object.
“Then I started praying. I wanted God to let me die,” she testified. “I was scared and I wanted to get away from him and that’s the only way I could get away – to die.”
Doctors later told the victim she had a mild heart attack during the ordeal. The victim, however, looked healthy and sounded clear in court on Monday.
“He acted like he had it all planned, like he knew what he was doing,” she said.
Jones testified that police were notified of the situation when an acquaintance of Erwin’s called police and said he had told her that he thought he might have killed her.
When he arrived, he began looking around the house and soon heard a muffled moaning sound, he said.
He went up to the bedroom and pulled the covers up to find the victim bound and gagged on the bed with her wrists bleeding from the tightness of the cord.
“She was very, very warm,” he said. “Her body temperature was very high.”
The victim said she normally set the thermostat at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, but Jones said it was up all the way, past 90.
“She told me that Frankie Erwin had done this to her,” Jones said.
Jones said there was also a note left in the door that said the victim had gone to the hospital to visit someone. Prosecutors allege the note was written by Erwin and placed in the door so people would think she was not home.
Erwin’s charges include two counts of attempted murder, sexual assault on the elderly, first-degree assault and robbery.
Erwin’s bond is $500,000 and he remains locked up at Garfield County Jail. If convicted, he faces life in prison.
Erwin has an extensive criminal history, including a Garfield County burglary case from which he was out on bond when the alleged rape occurred and a domestic violence case that is still pending in Garfield County Court in Rifle. In several separate incidents between 1978 and 1987, Erwin was convicted of robbery, conspiracy, aggravated burglary and larceny in New Mexico and attempted aggravated robbery in Colorado.
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