FAIRFAX, Va. -- The woman allegedly attacked in September 2005 took the stand Monday as Jesse Matthew’s attempted capital murder and sexual assault trial began in Fairfax.
In opening arguments, the prosecution described the victim, identified only as "RG," as an innocent young woman who had her head slammed, who was punched and nearly strangled to death during a sexual assault.
The commonwealth said on Sept. 24, 2005, the victim, who did not have a license or a car, walked to a Borders bookstore by her Fairfax home to enjoy some reading.
She lost track of time and walked home in the dark after stopping at a Giant grocery store on Jermantown Road. RG testified that when she arrived near her home on Rock Garden Drive, she was approached by a "stout" African American man with a beard.
She said he briefly asked her about an address, but something felt off, so she proceeded to walk fast to her town home. She testified that she heard her attacker running after her and before she could get to her home she said he picked her up “like you would a baby and dropped her on the curb of the sidewalk.”
RG testified that her attacker carried her off and dropped her several times and dragged her by her legs before sitting on her legs.
She said Matthew banged her head and she was screaming and crying and he ripped off her pants and underwear. She testified that he hit her and covered her nose and face and choked her while he sexually assaulted her.
RG testified that she was a virgin and that she fought hard to prevent the sexual assault by fighting back, unintentionally scratching her attacker. The commonwealth informed the jury that DNA obtained from that scratch under RG's fingernail matches Jesse Matthew’s DNA.
RG got emotional and teared up when she had to testify about the graphic details of the attack, some of which she just shared with the prosecution on Friday.
She claimed she blocked out part of the attack because it is too difficult to relive. She testified that it is hard to even talk about with her family. RG testified that her attacker told her if she screamed again and didn't let her do what he wanted, he would "twist her neck and kill her."
The jury was shown pictures of RG's neck injuries that she said were from her attacker choking her. She demonstrated for the jury how she said Matthew choked her. She testified that the day following the attack, she had a black eye, and pain everywhere in her neck and back. She also suffered injury to her genitalia. The jury was also presented with a photo of RG's bloodied undergarment.
The commonwealth also called witness Mark Castro to the stand. Castro, an engineer, testified that he was pulling into a parking space in RG's townhouse complex to watch a boxing match at a friend's house that evening. Castro said when he exited his vehicle he heard a woman trying to scream "help."
He testified that he then saw RG without pants on and covered in blood; she was in bad shape. He said she looked "nearly dead."
Castro testified RG said a black male did this to her and pointed to where the attack happened. The witness testified he ran toward the area and yelled "come on out."
He testified he never saw the alleged attacker. He knocked on several doors and got RG help.
The defense cross-examined Castro and RG. RG was asked several questions about her interviews with detectives after the alleged attack and specific details of the sexual assault. The defense also questioned RG about her involvement with the police sketch artist.
RG testified that she had the artist redraw the sketch until it accurately represented her attacker. She said it was hard to describe her attacker’s eyes and forehead. She testified her attacker was around 30 or less than 30, African American with a mustache and beard, and was taller than her. RG testified she is 5 feet 5 inches.
RG was excused from the stand at 5 p.m. She traveled here from India with her small children to testify. She had previously lived in Fairfax while completing her degree.
In opening statements, the defense explained to the jury that the sketch that RG assisted police with, does not match their client Jesse Matthew, and that they will introduce "touch DNA" and explain how several individuals' DNA can be on a sample.
The defense also said that seven or eight DNA samples were taken from other suspects in this investigation and that up to 40 other suspects were scrutinized in this case.
A jury of seven men and seven women were selected in under three and a half hours. Two of the 14 jurors will be alternates. The jurors will not be sequestered.
Prior to jury selection, Jesse Matthew pleaded not guilty to attempted capital murder and sexual assault charges. When asked by the judge if he was ready for trial, Matthew answered "no."
The defense also told the judge they were not ready for trial. Fairfax Circuit Court Judge David Schell responded that the defense has had "ample" time to prepare for this case with three attorneys assigned to the case.
Matthew's mother, father and girlfriend sat in the front row throughout today's proceedings. Matthew's mother excused herself about an hour before testimony ended.
Dan and Gil Harrington were also present in court Monday.
This is the first time the father of murdered Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington came face to face with Matthew. Harrington had a difficult time today, breaking down at times Monday.
Matthew has been linked by DNA to Harrington on the 2009 night she disappeared from UVa's John Paul Jones arena.
Gil Harrington said Matthew's mother made eye contact with her and they exchanged a cordial "hello."
Matthew is also charged with the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
Court will resume at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The commonwealth will continue to call witnesses from law enforcement, forensic experts and a nurse.
The trial has been scheduled for nine days if necessary. The trial will run through Thursday this week and pick up again Monday through Friday next week.