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Friday, October 11, 2019 1:00 am

Bus stop rapist is convicted

Girl, 15, able to use phone during assault to get help

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Jurors convicted a Fort Wayne man Thursday of raping a 15-year-old girl he took from a school bus stop last year. 

Police said the girl's mother dropped her off around 8 a.m. Nov. 29, 2018, at Smith Street and East Rudisill Boulevard. William J. Ray, 36, grabbed her from behind, dragged her to a shed and sexually assaulted her, according to court documents. 

“We're very happy to have justice for this victim,” Allen County Deputy Prosecutor Tesa Helge said. 

Ray was charged with rape, kidnapping, criminal confinement, burglary and sexual battery, and jurors deliberated for about 11/2 hours before returning guilty verdicts on each count following a three-day trial in Allen Superior Court. They also found Ray – who was convicted in 2014 in Wisconsin of possessing THC and robbery in Allen County in 2017 – to be a habitual offender, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. 

The rape charge carries a penalty of up to 16 years behind bars. A sentencing hearing is scheduled Nov. 8. 

The girl, who testified on the first day of the trial Tuesday, and members of her family were in court but declined to speak to a reporter. 

Now 16, the girl told investigators she used her cellphone to contact a friend during the attack. The friend called the girl's mother, who told police she raced back to the area of the bus top to find Ray holding her daughter in a headlock. 

The mother told The Journal Gazette last year she followed Ray in her car, taking pictures, until police arrived. 

The girl said Ray covered her eyes and moved her from the shed to a house when he discovered she was using her phone. In opening statements, Helge said “DNA consistent with the defendant” linked him to the crime. 

Defense attorney Gregory Ridenour disputed the girl's version of events and said there typically would have been people at the bus stop at the time. He declined to comment before Ray, who considered testifying at his trial but didn't, is sentenced.

Ray, handcuffed and wearing a white shirt and black suit jacket, was led from the courtroom by a sheriff's deputy after the verdicts were read. 

mleblanc@jg.net