A horrific rape case that took 16 years to resolve ended Friday. Lamar Paschall, who was convicted last month for kidnapping, raping, assaulting, and robbing a woman will serve 36 years to life in prison.
It was January 2002, and Amber [last name withheld], who’d just moved to San Francisco six months prior, was walking home through Western Addition one night when she was approached by two men near Golden Gate Avenue and Elm Alley. Paschall and his friend, Kenneth Babers, violently sexually assaulted Amber before forcing her to walk to several ATMs to withdraw cash. She eventually managed to escape to a doughnut shop, where the cashier locked the door and called 911.
The case took an unusually long time to reach a trial. Amber’s rape kit wasn’t matched with Paschall’s DNA for four years, and once it was, police couldn’t track her down. They found her in 2011, and Paschall was arrested in 2012. Babers was convicted in January and sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Amber spoke in court on Thursday, releasing a powerful victim’s statement describing in detail how much pain the attack had caused her.
“I’m glad you are going away. I have spent a lot of time being scared that I would run
into you and the other guy on the streets again and that you’d harm me in some way, even after
you were locked up,” she said. “It feels really fucking great to know that you’ll be going away for a long time. Even now I get scared that your sentence won’t be long enough and that one day you could still find me. Having no idea when it would end or what exactly was gonna happen was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced besides the gut-wrenching news of someone you know has died.”
At Friday’s sentencing, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ross said the violence “exceeded anything I’ve ever experienced in my 34 years as a lawyer or nine years a judge.”
But while the jury easily convicted Paschall of the charges brought against him, the sentencing decision was much more difficult. In the time since the assault, Paschall got married and had two daughters. By all accounts he has been a good father and a law-abiding citizen. In determining Paschall’s sentence, Ross had to decide how much of the past ten years to consider in the characterization of the defendant.
Complicating this fact was Paschall’s two young daughters, who spoke passionately in court Friday about the loss they’ve suffered since their father has been in jail awaiting trial. Their mother is abusive, and they are currently being cared for by Paschall’s mother and his stepfather.
“I never had my dad to help me with school. I would talk to him on the phone but it’s not the same. It’s hard to see all my friends with their dads,” said Paschall’s 11-year-old daughter, who wore a red flowered dress with her hair in a bun. “When I see him it’s hard to leave. He wasn’t there to see me turn seven or eight or nine. It’s really hard because I don’t get to wake up to see him every morning. He’s the best dad ever. Even though this hit him really hard he continued to be a great dad.”
Ross was gentle with the girls, both of whom cried talking about their dad.
“I’m very aware of you and have been thinking about you during these proceedings. Your voice has been very loud and clear,” he said. “What I know about your father is he’s done everything in his power to be the best father to you. Your dad did something when he was very young. He made some mistakes. None of us is the thing that we did on the worst day of our life, and that’s certainly true of your dad.”
In the end, Ross chose a fairly middle-of-the-road sentencing as far as the range is concerned, which could have varied from seven years to 67. Thirty-six years falls squarely in the middle, but its effects are enormous for everyone involved. Paschall will most likely be sent to state prison for a sentence that accounts for the entire time he’s been alive. The Paschall girls will have to grow up without their father. And Amber may finally get some peace, knowing that both men who attacked her 16 years ago are behind bars.
Nevertheless, there’s no winner in this story and no silver lining.
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