Personal motivations aid Walsh

“Editor’s note: This is part one in a three-part series. As Christopher Butts sits in his jail cell, indicted on multiple counts of rape and assorted other charges, Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh waits eagerly for justice to be served. Butts’ file sits on her desk near another thick file that makes the case very personal to her.”

Editor’s note:
This is part one in a
three-part series.

As Christopher Butts sits in his jail cell, indicted on multiple counts of rape and assorted other charges, Prosecuting Attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh waits eagerly for justice to be served.

Butts’ file sits on her desk near another thick file that makes the case very personal to her.

That file is on Gordon McRoy, who between 1985 and February 1986, attacked 12 women and one teenaged girl. McRoy, nicknamed the Daylight Rapist, also targeted the University of Akron area.

Two of his victims were students who were abducted outside their off-campus residences; one was on Sumner and the other on Spicer. They were taken to another residence, brutally raped and beaten.

McRoy also attempted to abduct three other students, but they were able to escape. They were on Sumner Street, Fir Hill, and in the University Townhouses. In the University Townhouse incident, McRoy was inside the residence and confronted a student as she got out of the shower. That woman was able to break free after a short struggle, and ran to a neighboring Townhouse for help.

The Daylight Rapist also targeted women in the Highland Square area.

That was the last time a serial rapist attacked women in the university area. That is, until last fall.

Butts is accused of attacking four Akron women; three live in off-campus housing just blocks from UA.

Both files serve as a reminder to Walsh that she is one of the lucky ones – and that’s why she has decided to personally try Butts’ case.

Walsh’s personal interest in the case spawned from her attack in 1986 by the Daylight Rapist.

While she was cleaning the snow from her car at about 8:40 a.m., Walsh noticed a man walking up the street with his hood pulled over his head.

Something about the man just didn’t feel right, she recalls.

The first thing I thought was that I’m being paranoid, Walsh said. It was broad daylight.

She dismissed her gut feeling, but watched the man until he was about a block away.

As Walsh got into her car, McRoy had turned around and doubled back. She had no way of knowing, though, and she didn’t think to lock her door.

He opened the driver’s side door and grabbed me, Walsh said. I screamed and screamed and screamed and he was freaking out, screaming at me to shut up. He was looking around and then he’d choke me again and then look around again.

Walsh described McRoy’s demeanor as one of panic. The struggle went back and forth between her kicking and his choking. McRoy unsuccessfully tried to get Walsh into the passenger seat of her car in what she believes was his attempt to abduct her.

I made enough of a scene that people started coming out of their apartments, she said. I remember one man came running out with no shoes or shirt and tried chasing him down, but no one could catch him.

In attacking Walsh, McRoy used a different tactic than he had with previous victims. In the other assaults, he threatened the women with a knife, placed duct tape over their eyes and put sunglasses on them as he walked them to a vehicle.

McRoy was apprehended while walking on Kling Street in search of his next victim. He was charged and found guilty of 31 charges that included 12 counts of rape, 10 counts of kidnapping, one count of aggravated burglary, three counts of aggravated robbery and five counts of felonious assault.

Before he could be sentenced, McRoy hanged himself with a bed sheet in his jail cell.

In the most recent attacks near the University of Akron, Butts reportedly entered off-campus residences through windows.

Once inside, police say he beat and choked his victims in addition to raping them.

Butts, 24, was arrested Jan. 10 while getting his paycheck and, as of Feb. 8, has been charged with 22 separate counts stemming from four attacks spanning from September through January.

Twenty members of the U.S. Marshall’s Violent Crime Task Force made the arrest in Columbus.

His charges include three counts of rape, three counts of felonious assault and three counts of kidnapping.

Butts was reportedly employed by a Columbus utility company and his work placed him in Akron.

The attacks, which occurred on Sept. 21, Nov. 14 and Jan. 7, took place in off-campus residencies on Kling, Sumner and Carroll streets.

Many carry either Sexually Violent Predator specifications or Sexual Motivation specifications, which, if convicted, will add mandatory time to his sentence.

If he is found guilty on all counts, he will face up to life in prison.

Twenty-two years later, Walsh recalls her attack with a sense of peace.

When you are attacked by someone with a knife, who chokes you and tries to abduct you, it is very difficult – more so than I would have realized.

But the first thing I stress to all victims is that it’s not their fault.

Walsh said that one of the first reactions for victims is self-blame, and, though a victim’s reaction varies from case to case, most go through a series of stages in their recovery process.

After her attack, Walsh said she often said to herself, What if I would have just locked my car doors?

She described the first stage as total fear with some amount of paranoia, especially if the person has yet to be caught.

For Walsh, that total fear led a time dealing with trust issues when encountering strangers.

Every person I saw, (I wondered) is this person going to be a problem? she said.

Before a victim reaches a feeling of finality, or closure, Walsh said that one of the hardest stages to go through is anger.

As a young woman living alone, I was having trouble being alone. (I was) staying with friends and family and wondered why I couldn’t be at my own place, she recalled. I started getting angry (and thought) how can one person, within a couple minutes, completely consume you to a point where you feel like you can’t go anywhere and be safe?

As Walsh describes her attack, she is no longer consumed with the anger and feeling of violation. Her expression is stern, making it clear that her attack has not defined the woman she has become – a clarity she hopes similar victims have the luxury to also experience.

It took about a year for Walsh to lose that sense of nervousness, but she maintains that she remains cautious to this day.

” #1.1361330:3098409674.jpg:20080212_walsh.jpg:Prosecutor Sheri Bevan Walsh in her office in downtown Akron.:”