SANTIAGO RAYMUNDO-RAFAEL

Raymundo-Rafael

WOODSTOCK – A man who evaded arrest for almost 18 years must serve prison time for trying to rape a girl in Shenandoah County in 2000.

Retired Judge Dennis L. Hupp sentenced Santiago Raymundo-Rafael to 10 years in a state penitentiary for attempted rape of a minor that authorities say in court documents occurred Jan. 3, 2000. Hupp ordered Raymundo-Rafael to complete three years of supervised probation upon his release from incarceration.

Raymundo-Rafael, 45, also known as Jorge Raymundo-Rafael and Ramon Santiago, of Grand Island, Nebraska, appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court for a sentencing hearing on Wednesday. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Strecky prosecuted the case. Margarita Wood represented the defendant.

The victim testified for the prosecution and Raymundo-Rafael took the stand in his own defense. Strecky asked Hupp to sentence Raymundo-Rafael to 10 years in prison. Wood asked the judge to impose a much lower sentence. Hupp sided with the prosecutor.

The judge noted at the sentencing hearing that he found Raymundo-Rafael guilty of attempted rape because of reasonable doubt as to whether or not penetration of the victim occurred. Hupp noted that Raymundo-Rafael had clearly committed an act of forcible violence against the victim and that the defendant fled the state and eluded law enforcement for more than 15 years.

At the beginning of the hearing, Strecky told Hupp that probation workers used a charge of rape rather than attempted rape when they created guidelines used by the court when it considers punishment. Wood said she had just received the amended guidelines that morning and did not have a chance to go over the document with her client in preparation for the hearing. Wood made a motion to postpone the sentencing to give her time to review new guidelines with her client.

Strecky objected to Wood’s motion. Strecky argued, and Hupp concurred, that the new guidelines lean in the defendant’s favor and recommended a lower sentence. Strecky said she did not not object to the court allowing Wood time prior to the hearing to consult with her client about the new guidelines.

Wood also argued that she needed time to talk to the expert who evaluated her client prior to sentencing. The expert based her analysis of the defendant on the original charge and not attempted rape. Wood told Hupp she did not receive the report until Aug. 27, giving her three days to look at the document.

But Strecky pushed for the sentencing to move forward.

“The victim is here,” Strecky said. “She’s been here. She’s been prepared for the sentencing date. She wants to testify before the court and she’s prepared herself emotionally for that.”

Strecky told the court that Wood apparently tried to contact Austin Hovermale, an assistant prosecutor who left the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney earlier this summer. Strecky took over the case when Hovermale left.

“At this point, the commonwealth is ready to go forward,” Strecky said.

Wood said she did not receive a copy of the victim impact statement until Tuesday and her client had not yet seen the document.

Wood also told Hupp she had contacted the prosecutor’s office and a secretary told her that Hovermale was handling the case. Strecky said Wood should have contacted the prosecutor’s office if she had not heard back from Hovermale.

Wood said had she known Strecky was handling the case, she would have contacted the prosecutor.

“Miss Strecky is very responsive to my email and phone calls but that office is not,” Wood said.

Hupp ultimately proceeded with the sentencing hearing.

Raymundo-Rafael spent more than a year in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail awaiting a trial before Hupp on June 17. Then-Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Austin Hovermale prosecuted the case at trial. Wood filed a motion before the trial asking the court to dismiss the case because, as she argued, prosecutors violated her client’s right to a speedy trial. Hupp denied Wood’s motion and the trial proceeded. At the end of the trial, Hupp found Raymundo-Rafael guilty of attempted rape. The judge ordered a presentence report and a sexual offender evaluation prior to the sentencing hearing. Hupp signed the order on Aug. 29.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley filed a document identified as “information” in the circuit court on May 11, 2018, in which the prosecutor accused Raymundo-Rafael of rape. Wiseley cites statements made by Woodstock police Sgt. Brian Miller who indicates that investigator D. Painter went to Shenandoah Memorial Hospital on Jan. 3, 2000 to meet with the alleged child victim. The child told the investigator she had been babysitting Raymundo-Rafael’s children on that date, the information document states. The child went on to say that Raymundo-Rafael sexually assaulted her in the kitchen of the Valley Vista Drive apartment and she, at one point struck her head against the wall and lost consciousness. The child said when she regained consciousness, her pants were down and the defendant was lying on top of her having intercourse with her, Miller notes in his statement. The child eventually escaped, ran to a nearby pay phone and called 911.

An agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Nebraska interviewed Raymundo-Rafael on Oct. 3 and the accused “admitted to sexual relations with (the child) in Woodstock on January 3, 2000,” Miller states.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com