EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

May 14, 2014

'In fear for my life'

26 years later, cold case victim testifies in Underwood trial

SALEM, Mass. – She’d been forced out of her car, kidnapped, beaten and repeatedly raped. She thought her attacker was going to let her go - but then he forced her back into his “orangey-red” pickup truck and kept driving.

Now past the Hampton, N.H. toll booths in a dark area of the highway, the terrified 24-year-old nurse said she started to pray. First, she asked her aunt who died two weeks earlier to help her. Then, she went right into the prayer, “Hail Mary.”

“I finished the ‘Hail Mary’ ... And before I knew it, he stabbed me in my right side,” the victim testified in Salem Superior Court yesterday.

Twenty-six years after she was forced off River Road in Andover by a stranger, the victim recalled the harrowing events of May 20, 1988 before a judge and jury in the trial of twice convicted murderer Valentine Underwood.

In a clear, firm voice, the petite, blonde woman recounted how she was driving her Ford Escort on River Road that night when she was forced off the road by the pickup driver, who then kidnapped her and raped her at various locations in Essex County.

“I did what he told me to do because I was in fear for my life,” the now 50-year-old divorced mother of three children testified.

Underwood’s long-awaited aggravated rape and kidnapping trial officially started yesterday. The victim, who has waited more than a quarter-century to tell her story to a jury, was the first witness called by Prosecutor Kate MacDougall.

A DNA sample run through a national database led authorities to Underwood, 52, who was serving double life sentences for the murder of two young woman in California. Underwood, a former U.S. Marine basketball star, has been in Essex County for the past three years awaiting trial in the Andover rape and kidnap case.

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