SALEM, Mass. — A trial date for a twice convicted California murderer charged in a 25-year-old Andover rape and kidnapping case could be set later this month.
Currently serving double life sentences, Valentine Underwood, 52, was extradited to Essex County in May 2011 to be prosecuted for the aggravated rape and kidnapping of a woman on River Road in Andover in 1988.
Underwood has spent 28 months in Massachusetts custody, first at the county jail in Middleton and now at MCI Cedar Junction to where he was transferred earlier this summer.
Yesterday, Underwood was scheduled to appear in Salem Superior Court to personally argue a motion to dismiss he filed in the rape case, but instead he refused to come out of his cell for transport and citing medical complaints.
In response, Judge John Lu scheduled a Sept. 17 court date, where Underwood will be allowed to argue his motion by video teleconferencing from MCI Cedar Junction to the Superior Court courtroom. A trial date will also be set on Sept. 17, Lu said.
Underwood has fired several of his court appointed attorneys. Most recently, he asked to represent himself with defense attorney Joseph Collins as standby council.
Underwood is trying to get the Andover indictments dismissed, saying Essex County Grand Jury members were told he was previously convicted of rape. He claims he was not. Also, the aggravated rape law he is charged under did not exist in 1988.
Aggravated rape and kidnapping convictions both carry penalties of life in prison.
Collins also said yesterday Underwood, who is 6 feet, 6 inches tall and weighs 290 pounds, has complained of swelling in his ankles. Also, when he’s handcuffed for transport to court, Underwood experiences pain in his shoulders and elbows, Collins said.
At Middleton Jail, Underwood was considered so dangerous that Sheriff Frank Cousins said MCI Cedar Junction was better suited to handle him.