Plea bargain is struck in YWCA shelter rape case

Judge denies the prosecution further delay before a trial

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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A man set to go to trial Monday on allegations of raping three women at a YWCA domestic violence center has accepted a plea bargain to a misdemeanor assault charge.

Uche P. Onwuzuruike, 32, pleaded guilty Monday to two counts of fourth-degree assault.

At his sentencing on Sept. 18, he faces a maximum sentence of one year in jail, with the possibility of another one-year suspended sentence.

Onwuzuruike was initially charged with three counts of second-degree rape. He was accused of raping the women at the YWCA SafeChoice Domestic Violence Center between May 2010 and July 2010 while he was a resident there.

The first incident allegedly occurred on May 17, when Onwuzuruike called a 33-year-old woman into his room to talk and then assaulted her, according to court documents.

On July 1, he persuaded a 34-year-old woman to come to his room to use his computer and allegedly raped her there.

Then on July 3, a 36-year-old woman said, Onwuzuruike came into her room and sexually assaulted her.

The women reported the rapes to Vancouver police in fall 2010 and a warrant was issued for Onwuzuruike's arrest in November 2011 following follow-up police investigation.

There were problems with the prosecution of the case, attorneys said Monday, namely that one of the victims is currently hospitalized and is unable to testify.

Senior Deputy Prosecutor Camara Banfield asked the judge for a delay in trial because of the woman's

condition. Judge Diane Woolard, however, citing the number of times the trial has already been postponed, denied the prosecution's request.

As the case was about the proceed to jury selection, Onwuzuruike abruptly said he wanted to accept a plea bargain to the misdemeanor charge.

"I have lost everything I've had," the defendant said, noting he wanted to put the case behind him. "My life is a mess."

In his guilty plea statement, read aloud by his court-appointed attorney, Jeff Barrar, Onwuzuruike admitted to "offensive touching" of the three women.

Victim objects to deal

During the hearing, Banfield said one of the victims is adamantly against the plea deal.

"She was absolutely opposed to this," Banfield said. "She very much wanted to go forward to trial."

Banfield explained after the hearing: "We felt we had some vulnerabilities in the case."

She said there were problems with the timeliness of reporting and inconsistencies in witness statements. Also, two of the women had consensual sex with the defendant after the alleged rapes, attorneys said.

As part of the plea bargain, Banfield said she is seeking 20-year no-contact orders between Onwuzuruike and the three women.

The YWCA started offering its shelter to women and men in January 2010. After the alleged rapes, YWCA officials have said they reviewed policies and procedures but decided the shelter already had sufficient security measures.

Laura McVicker: http://twitter.com/col_courts;http://facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.