A Salt Lake woman told police that a man kidnapped her for 11 hours, beat her and raped her four different times last week.
Detectives believe her, but the suspect still probably won't be charged.Through a legal technicality, the alleged rapist may have been her husband, which, according to Utah law, means he cannot be charged with rape.
Debra Locke appeared before 3rd District Judge Richard Moffat on Nov. 5 to finalize the divorce from her husband of 13 years. The couple had been separated for three years.
Moffat granted the divorce and also issued a restraining order against her ex-husband. "The judge said I could have my maiden name - something I really wanted," she said.
But the question prosecutors face is whether or not the couple was officially and legally divorced at that point. Although the judge verbally declared her divorced, the decree was not prepared at that time and was not signed until hours later - and hours after the rapes allegedly occurred.
Locke said that after she was granted her divorce that day, she walked out of the courtroom feeling very relieved. "I thought he would finally leave me alone . . . but deep down I knew he wouldn't."
Her ex-husband was waiting for her as she walked out of the court building.
Locke said he came up behind her and forced her into a vehicle. "He said, `Get in the car or I'll kill you right here.' "
She said she begged him to let her go, but he told her he only wanted to talk. "He then started talking about how he had to kill me," she said, because by then he was late returning from his prison work release and knew he was in trouble.
The man told her he was taking her to Las Vegas to marry her all over again. "He said he wanted me to die with his last name."
He allowed Locke to make a few phone calls to check on her seven children during the ordeal but was always listening to her conversations. Police said her oldest daughter became suspicious because of previous threats that had been made and she called the police, believing that her mother was in danger.
Officers issued a bulletin to officers throughout the state and the two were finally located just before midnight at a rest stop in Millard County. Her ex-husband was arrested and returned to prison.
"I have never been so happy to see a highway patrolman in my life," Locke said.
Utah's rape statute states that "a person commits rape when the actor has sexual intercourse with another person, not the actor's spouse, without the victim's consent."
"Women do not have to be terrorized by men. It doesn't matter if you're married. If a woman says `no,' a man should take it at that," she said. "I don't understand Utah law that says if you're married, you can't get raped. `No' is `no.' "
Salt Lake Police Sgt. Roy Wasden said the "tricky legal question" of whether or not the couple was still married will have to be addressed but seems irrelevant.
"I certainly believe it (rape within a marriage) can happen and does happen all the time," he said. "We have to deal with such incidents on a case-by-case basis."
He said he will meet with county attorneys to review Locke's case and, as in all cases, he will push for charges on all crimes he believes were committed. Rape charges will likely be discussed, but it will be up to the county attorneys whether such charges are prosecutable.
Moffat said he is unsure how the courts would rule on the matter of the divorce. "But in my mind . . . that divorce took place at 10:30 a.m. on Monday morning."
Statutes may be revised
State legislators may have an opportunity to revise Utah's rape statute that says a person can only be charged with rape if the rapist is not married to the victim.
Janet Rose, D-Murray, said that after she became aware of the Debra Locke case, she thought about looking into the statute and possibly requesting legislation to change it. "Your phone call will prompt me to do so," she told the Deseret News.
"As far as a woman's rights are concerned, rape is rape," she said. "Being married doesn't entitle you to force someone into a sexual act."
Third District Judge Scott Daniels, a member of a task force studying judicial issues, said he believes Utah's rape statute is "really archaic."
"That springs from the days when a wife was considered to be a man's property," he said. "In my opinion, a person that rapes someone rapes someone whether they are their spouse or not."
Daniels said he, too, would contact state legislators to look into the possibility of changing that statute.