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The Journal Gazette

  • Whiteside

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 7:39 am

Suspect in rape acts as defense

Rebecca S. Green | The Journal Gazette

When officers arrived on the Rivergreenway that Saturday morning in September 2012, they found the woman sitting on the ground, holding her knees and rocking slightly.

She couldn’t identify the person who attacked her, describing only being grabbed from behind, an arm around her neck moments after she said "hello" to a young man standing under the overpass at Lower Huntington Road.

He told her to "go to sleep." She worried he would kill her. And it wasn’t until 2015 that anyone was charged with the crime, when DNA collected through the Indiana Department of Correction matched DNA collected from her body at the Fort Wayne Sexual Assault Treatment Center after the attack.

On Tuesday, 19-year-old Walik Whiteside represented himself as he faces charges of rape, sexual battery and two counts of criminal deviate conduct. The crimes occurred when he was 15 years old.

Just a couple months after the woman was attacked on the Rivergreenway, Whiteside shot another teenager in the back, putting him in a wheelchair. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison for that crime, after admitting to a charge of robbery, having been charged as an adult.

Whiteside was sent to the DOC, where his DNA was collected. In March 2015, he was formally charged with the Rivergreenway attack.

During the months leading up to the trial, Whiteside was represented by some of Allen County’s most experienced and well-known attorneys – Robert Gevers, Michelle Kraus and Tony Churchward – at public expense. But he rejected them all. 

Whiteside was going to handle it himself, but not until after some foot-dragging and game-playing before the jury came into the courtroom.

For more than an hour Tuesday, while potential jurors and witnesses waited, Whiteside hemmed and hawed about pleading guilty. Allen County’s chief public defender Randy Hammond met with the teenager and his mother to help work out the details.

But when it came to the jumping-off point, Whiteside said he wasn’t sure and felt forced into the plea agreement because Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull would not grant another continuance in the case.

According to court records, between the dismissal and appointments of new attorneys and other matters, Whiteside had been granted at least three continuances.

"Why are you forcing me to go to trial if I’m not ready?" he asked.

Gull reminded him he had been advised repeatedly against representing himself.

"I will not let you manipulate the system," Gull told Whiteside, who sat sullenly, his head in his handcuffed hands.

"I’m ready to sign it," Whiteside said, looking over at the prosecutors. 

Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tom Chaille told Gull the plea agreement was withdrawn. 

Whiteside’s handcuffs were removed, and the trial began.

For security reasons, Whiteside was forbidden from leaving the defense table. Prosecutors were forced to stay largely at their table, as well.

During her testimony, the victim told the jury she was training for her first half-marathon, scheduled to participate in the 2012 Fort4Fitness just a few days after the attack.

As she struggled under her assailant on the grass along the Rivergreenway, another jogger drew closer and the assailant ran off.

Fort Wayne police officers arrived, and a K-9 team tracked the suspect from the spot in the grass. Using a comb left behind, the dog chased the scent to a nearby apartment complex, but lost it in the middle of the buildings.

According to testimony, it was a place Whiteside once lived with his mother.

The trial is expected to continue through Thursday.