When I sat down for an interview with 82-year-old Arline Mathews, I was greeted by a woman whose clarity, eloquence, and sense of irony has withstood the passage of time.
Jennifer Ginsberg: Arline is spending the last years of her life advocating for the reform of archaic laws and policies that allow sexually violent criminals to get released early from prison only to re-offend again. A former activist, congressional candidate, portrait artist, mother, and grandmother, Arline's bright blue eyes sparkled as she spoke with passion about human rights and reform:
"I have dedicated my life to making the world a better place. It is terribly difficult for a woman of my generation to come forward with a story of sexual violence and use my name. When Roy gets released from prison, I know he could come after me and kill me," she stated, with an expression of fearless stoicism.
On a fall evening in 1989, Arline Mathews was relaxing in her Chatsworth, Calif., home in the quiet, residential community that she had lived in for more than 20 years. At 62 years old, she had been widowed for more than five years, and her children were grown and out of the house.
As she was drifting off to sleep, she says she awakened with a start as a flash of light darted across the room. She bravely got out of bed and began to check her house, room by room. When she reached the guest room, she was confused why the door was shut, as she always left it open. She attempted to open it, but it didn't give. She pushed it again, and the door flung open and she was immediately thrown to the ground by a large man. As she hit the floor, she let out a scream and began to sob.
"Stop crying or I'll kill you!" the man said, as he held a knife to her throat and then blindfolded her. He led her to her bedroom -- and raped her.
During the rape, which Arline estimates took place over the course of several hours, she says her attacker began chatting with her. He told her that he worked for a moving company during the day and cased neighborhoods looking for open windows, so he could return in the evenings to rape women. He explained that he preferred elderly women because they were frail and didn't fight back, and tended to be widowed -- for the last thing he wanted was to have an altercation with another man.
He confessed that he had been raping women for many years, both in New Orleans and Los Angeles County, and confided to Arline that he normally smothered and killed his victims.
"I came from a good home ... my parents were wonderful," he said, somewhat sadly, "and look what I am doing now."
Arline knew she needed to find a way to outsmart this man so he wouldn't kill her too. He asked her, "Who helps you with your gardening? Do you have a handyman?"
"This is my clue," Arline thought.
"No, I don't," she responded, thinking quickly. "I need someone to help me. Maybe you could come around every week and take care of the house for me."
As dawn broke, he led Arline back to the kitchen. He took off her blindfold and repaired the screen he had removed when breaking in. He drank a glass of water and smoked a cigarette, then got her phone number and left.
She immediately called the police and reported the rape, and DNA evidence was obtained. She left her home and moved in with her son and forwarded her calls to his house. Her attacker began breaking into her home nightly, then would call her in frustration when she wasn't there. He was often enraged, and many times threatened to kill her. After every call, she immediately notified the police, but was repeatedly told that no detectives were available to make the arrest.
One Saturday afternoon, he phoned her from a telephone booth and demanded she pick him up. He gave her the exact location and she promised she would be there shortly. She called the police, and was told, "Detectives don't work on Saturdays." The operator explained that only detectives can arrest in major crimes during regular working hours, which are 8 AM to 4:30 PM Monday to Friday. (Momlogic contacted the LAPD for a statement, and was told detectives are basically accessible 24/7 depending on the case).
Consequently, her attacker was left to rape and mutilate an 80-year-old woman a week later, after which he was finally arrested. Lloyd Anthony Roy was found guilty of eight rapes by DNA testing. According to Arline, his DNA was not checked against all the cold cases of rapes and serial murders in New Orleans and L.A. County, despite her testimony.
His case never went to trial. The D.A. decided to plea bargain with him, even though there was concrete evidence, and he was only charged for three of the eight rapes he was convicted of. He was sentenced to 44 years in prison.
Now, after serving less than half of his sentence, Roy could be released if he passes a psychological evaluation in 2011. Arline is absolutely certain that upon his release, he will return to raping and killing women. Arline attests that Teresa Gomez, an attorney for the LA District Attorney's Office in the Sex Crimes Division, told her that in the over two decades that she has worked for the DA's office, Roy is the most violent individual she had ever encountered. For her part, a rep for Gomez tells momlogic "Based on the number of vulnerable victims he had sexually assaulted, [Roy] is clearly dangerous and will be given serious consideration when evaluated as a potential sexually violent predator."
Arline is fortunate to have garnered support from Robin Sax, a former prosecutor for the LA DIstrict Attorney's Office for Sex Crimes and a ML expert. Sax is advocating on behalf of Arline and is certain that under the Sexually Violent Predator Laws, the parole board has the authority to hold Roy under civil commitment and extend his sentence. She sees this case as "an opportunity for justice for Arline, with the assistance of the LAPD, the LA DA's office, and the California Department of Correction."
It is imperative that Roy's DNA is tested against all the cold cases. Also, policy changes need to be implemented to allow officers of any rank to arrest criminals in major crimes. The fact that Arline had definitive information about Roy's whereabouts and he was not arrested for more than two months due to some bureaucratic technicality is unfathomable. Consequently, he was left to continue raping and mutilating women.
Arline is also concerned about "an abuse of plea bargaining that endangers victims and the public at large." Plea bargaining is a way for prosecutors to negotiate a deal to get a conviction, without having to go through the hassle and expense of a trial. When strong DNA evidence is present (as in Roy's case), there is NO REASON to plea bargain -- especially with sex offenders, who have an incredibly high rate of recidivism and are rarely (if ever) reformed. History tells us that these people get released from prison only to re-offend again, and it seems obvious that the only solution is that they are locked away for life.
According to Arline, district attorneys like to boast a high conviction rate in order to get re-elected, and by plea bargaining, they are ensured a conviction. Arline stated, "How immoral, unethical, and opportunistic these politicians are to let these guys out to kidnap, rape, and murder -- just to keep a political office!"
Arline's mission is to ensure that other women aren't injured or murdered by convicted sex offenders because of technicalities, bureaucratic red tape, and early release from prison. She is encouraging women to form grassroots movements to change policy. You can send a letter to the California Department of Corrections, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the governor, and the state attorney general's office.
"Notify the press, picket police headquarters, call LAPD Chief Bratton's office and demand reform!" she suggested. "I don't wish Roy any harm. I think he should be treated humanely. But he is a misfit ... men like him need to be locked up for life where they can never hurt anyone ever again."
|Jennifer Ginsberg is a Los Angeles mother, writer, and addiction specialist with over 15 years of experience in the fields of alcoholism, addiction, and recovery. After receiving her MSW from the USC School Of Social Work and MAJCS from Hebrew Union College, Jennifer served as the clinical director of a 120 bed drug and alcohol treatment facility. She also co-developed an addiction prevention program for Jewish youth, which has been implemented in synagogues nationally. Jennifer now works privately with people who are impacted by the devastating effects of drugs and alcohol and writes about all topics related to motherhood, addiction, and women in politics. Read more about her life at angstmom.com|