Golden Grove escapee blames rapes on childhood head trauma


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ST. CROIX - Convicted rapist Rafael Joseph, who escaped Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility for several hours before officials realized he was missing, told police that when he fell from his mother's porch at the age of 9 or 10 years old, he was brain damaged and that he cannot help but rape.

Joseph, 39, appeared before Magistrate Jessica Gallivan on Tuesday to be advised of his rights on new charges.

Joseph escaped from the medium security facility some time after the routine population count about 9 p.m. Sunday night. His escape was not discovered until police contacted Correction Bureau officials some time after 3 a.m. to advise them that a woman had reported that she was raped by Joseph in Frederiksted. Officials were asked to confirm that Joseph was still in custody, and that was when they realized that he had escaped.

During Joseph's advise of rights hearing Tuesday, he was restrained no more than any other detainee - with handcuffs chained to his waist and leg irons.

As he came before the judge, Joseph held up a white paper towel, with a few blood stains.

"This is what they do to me when I went back to Golden Grove," he said.

Joseph said other inmates assaulted him when he was returned.

Gallivan advised Joseph that he had been newly charged with escape from custody; first-degree burglary; and first-degree rape and that he could face up to 65 years in prison if he is tried and convicted on the charges.

At Joseph's advice-of-rights hearing, more details of his time on the run emerged.

Shortly after 2:30 a.m. Monday, a woman told police she was in her Two Brother's home asleep when she heard a noise and realized that her back door had been opened and taken off of the frame.

She said moments later she saw Joseph inside her house, and when she asked him what he was doing there, he told her to shut up and grabbed her around her throat and raped her. The woman told police that she had flashbacks to when Joseph had previously raped her at knifepoint, and she was scared so while she resisted him, she did not make any noise.

According to the police report, Joseph told the woman that he had to leave the house, because he had escaped the prison and officers would be looking for him by 9 a.m.

He told her that was the last time he would come to the house and he left, telling her not to say which way he went.

The woman said she waited a few minutes, then left the house and walked to the Wilbur Francis Police Station in Mars Hill, where she reported the rape.

Police, Corrections officers, U.S. Marshals and V.I. Superior Court marshals launched an intense manhunt for Joseph in the hours that followed, primarily focusing on the Frederiksted area, where Joseph had been known to frequent, and also checking reported other reports across the island.

According to the police report by V.I. Police Officer Reginald Pedro, a resident reported that Joseph was seen running toward the bush between Ludvig Harrigan housing community and Claude O. Markoe Elementary School, and Pedro went in that direction, saw Joseph, gave chase and apprehended Joseph without incident near the school, just before noon.

Detective Vanessa Richardson said Joseph waived his right to remain silent and told police that he fell from a porch in 1983 or 1984 and hit his head. He said he read that if a person had a concussions, they would have brain damage.

Joseph told police he first mentioned rape to a little girl when they attended a Frederiksted elementary school, and he was verbally reprimanded by the teacher to never talk that way again.

He said when he was 14-years-old, he was charged with rape, but that no one took him to get his head checked, and he does not trust himself, because it is all caused by the head injury.

The police report states that Joseph told police that we walked to Frederiksted from the prison when he escaped and remembers talking to the woman until shortly before the sun came up, but he denied choking or raping her before he left.

At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant Attorney General Zuleyma Chapman told the court that although Joseph is detained on other matters, she would ask that bail be set in the amount of $10,000 on the escape charge and that it be set at $300,000 in the case involving the burglary and rape.

Gallivan set bail at $75,000 in the escape case and $500,000 in the burglary and rape case.

Assistant Public Defender Leslie Davis said a motion will be filed by her office at a later date.

Joseph has been arrested four times on rape charges.

In 1992, when Joseph was 17, he was charged with rape and ultimately convicted and sentenced to 30 years. He was paroled in 2007, after serving about half the sentence.

Joseph has one current case pending from 2011 in which he is accused of raping a woman on a Frederiksted beach.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charge and was scheduled to go to trial April 7.

During the final status conference in the case on April 4, Joseph's attorney, Gordon Rhea, filed a motion with the court, seeking a psychological evaluation for Joseph.

Joseph has been scheduled to have the evaluation conducted by the Division of Mental Health, who was ordered to have the evaluation completed and a report generated for a hearing scheduled for July 2 before V.I. Superior Court Judge Douglas Brady.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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