Guilty pleas in 'masked rapist' case
A 21-year-old Wellington man pleaded guilty Monday to four first degree felony charges in connection with a rape and attack of a young woman last January.
Dwaine Stacey Shaw filed the pleas in Seventh District Court in Price to aggravated kidnapping, aggravated burglary, rape and forcible sodomy. Charges of aggravated sexual assault and aggravated robbery were dismissed.
According to Wellington Police Sgt. Kelly Maynes, the defendant was quiet during the proceedings, answering the questions of Judge George M. Harmond Jr. respectfully while standing with his attorney, David Allred.
"This was a very difficult day for the victim of this crime," explained Maynes, who was the lead investigator in the case. "It was hard for her to be there but I think it was important for her to hear him take responsibility for his crimes. I think eventually it will matter to her that he showed some remorse."
According to Maynes, the possibility of a trial was terrifying to the victim as even attending court for his plea was devastating.
"As they explained what the charges were and what they entailed, she had to relive the experience," he explained. "The emotion for her was so strong but she was able to hear him say, "Yes, I did it."
The incident began on January 13 in the early morning hours when Shaw - wearing a full clown mask - broke into the woman's apartment in Wellington, held her at knife point and raped her. According to Maynes, the ordeal lasted for between 15 to 30 minutes before the victim saw her opportunity and fought to get away.
Shaw's name was first given to investigators by the victim, who was asked by police to name everyone she knew who fit her attacker's build. Early on in the investigation, Shaw's name would surface again pinning him as the main suspect.
"There were items left behind at the scene and we were able to tie those items to Shaw through a purchase he had made. That really helped to move our investigation forward," explained Maynes. "We also had the DNA evidence but our own investigation led us to Shaw before it came back. So when the DNA hit, we were ready to make the arrest."
According to Maynes, Shaw began cooperating right after he was arrested and presented with the state's DNA evidence. This early cooperation allowed investigators to locate the mask and weapon used during the attack.
"This was a horribly violent crime," commented Maynes, who was not only lead investigator but also the case's victim advocate. "I can't even imagine what she went through. When we got the mask and weapon he used, I couldn't believe it. Just seeing that mask, I can't imagine. It wasn't a kid's mask, it wasn't a toy. This was a terrifying thing which covered his whole face."
The Wellington sergeant reported that at the behest of the county attorney, Shaw had taken a polygraph examination during his confession.
"It was scary the way that his version of events mirrored hers almost exactly," he said. "She discussed with us the manner in which she saw her opportunity to fight and was able to get away. She got out, got into her car and headed into Price."
According to Maynes, the victim did not report the crime until she reached a phone in Price. Just as she was calling in, a neighbor in Wellington who had heard loud noises and screaming was also calling police. With one call from Wellington and one from Price hitting dispatch at about the same time, initial rumors of multiple masked rapists began and spread.
"Social media created a monster on its own with this one," said Maynes. "The hysteria and fear that people had and the calls every local police force was inundated with caused an overload of information."
That fear stayed in the area for some time as funding issues at the state crime lab caused case results to be delayed through spring. Shaw was arrested on May 8.
"He was apprehended without incident and, honestly, his body language spoke of relief when we arrested him," continued Maynes. "We initially interviewed everyone involved with the case but issues with Shaw put him at the center of our investigation from very early on."
Shaw will now be the subject of a pre-sentencing report through Adult Probation and Parole prior to his sentencing on Nov. 26.