EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

May 11, 2014

Long awaited trial starts tomorrow

ANDOVER — Prosecutors say Valentine Underwood kidnapped and raped a local woman and left her for dead in a ditch off River Road in Andover 26 years ago.

Underwood, a twice convicted murderer in California, is scheduled to go on trial for that crime tomorrow in Salem (Mass.) Superior Court.

Three years ago, a DNA hit in a national data bank brought Underwood, 52, to Essex County to face charges in the May 20, 1988 cold case. The former U.S. Marine basketball star was in the process of serving double life sentences in California at the time.

Now, more than a quarter century later, the rape victim is expected to testify against him.

Underwood intends to represent himself at trial, with attorney Joseph Collins serving as his standby defense counsel. Assistant District Attorney Kate MacDougall is prosecuting the case.

Late last week, Underwood sought a change of venue for the trial. His request was denied.

Standing 6 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing roughly 290 pounds, Underwood has required additional security when he’s transported to and brought into court.

Last year, as he awaited trial, he was transferred from the county jail in Middleton to MCI Cedar Junction after an incident MacDougall described as a “standoff.” Underwood had armed himself with two knives made out of broken mirror pieces that he taped to each hand, she said.

Underwood’s alleged ties to the area remained secret until 2011 when local detectives, using a national DNA database, matched genetic materials to samples taken from the Andover victim on May 20, 1988.

The then 24-year-old woman was driving home to Lowell on River Road when Underwood allegedly forced her car off the road, punched her in the face and ordered her at knifepoint into his truck. The Eagle-Tribune does not identify the victims of rape and sexual assault.

The woman was beaten and sexually assaulted as Underwood drove north and into southern New Hampshire, according to prosecutors. Just past the toll booths in Hampton, Underwood is accused of driving off the highway and stabbing the woman in the abdomen. The blade on his knife broke off.

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