Disclaimer: This week’s episode talks about a series of sexual assaults, details of the case may be hard to hear for some. We’ll be using the terms “victims” and “survivors” interchangeably throughout this episode, each term can mean something unique to the people living through this. Find resources from the Rape Crisis Center here.
For two years, the medical center area of San Antonio was terrorized.
Women were attacked and sexually assaulted in their homes.
The person behind those attacks was someone nobody expected, a teenager who was a known basketball player at John Marshall High School.
June 3rd, 2016
A woman living at an apartment complex in the medical center area was getting ready to let her cat out.
When she opened the door a man with a hoodie was standing there and pushed his way into her apartment.
The next moments were sheer terror, she was robbed of her money and then raped.
Once he left, she called San Antonio Police Department to report the horrific attack.
December 22nd, 2016
Six months later, the same hooded suspect would strike again at another apartment complex in the area.
A woman heard a knock at her door but when she looked through the peephole no one was there.
A while later, another knock, and again nobody was there.
Then a third time, she would open the door and that’s when a man with a hoodie carrying a knife pushed his way in.
He asked for money and then raped her.
“He would spot his potential target (and) sometimes pretend like he was jogging through the complex,” SAPD Chief William McManus said. “When he spotted someone he was interested in, he would follow them and once they got to their apartment door, he would either follow right in after them or knock on the door hoping they would open it.”
January 15th, 2017
Not even a month later, and another attack in the same area.
This time a woman was heading into her apartment when she turned around a gun was being pointed at her.
The hooded suspect would rob and rape her as well.
Police this time came out to say they had a serial rapist on the loose and warned those who live in the medical center area to be cautious.
May 28th, 2017
Another brazen attack, five months after the last.
Yet another woman was pushed into her apartment at gunpoint.
The hooded suspect robbed her of several items including her watch, iPhone, and mini iPad.
She was also raped.
What we didn’t know at the time, this would be the last time the suspect would strike.
June 8th, 2017
SAPD arrested the suspect, 18-year-old Anton Harris, shortly after he left North Star Mall.
Chief McManus said he does not believe there are other suspects and believes the department has the right suspect in custody.
McManus told news outlets through DNA evidence collected through a straw Harris had used at school, they were able to tie the teen to six cases at various apartment complexes.
Harris’ arrest came days after he had graduated from John Marshall High School.
During his interrogation, Harris admitted to the crimes and told police he had been sexually assaulting women since 2015.
It is believed Harris may have been only 16-years-old when he committed his first attack.
Harris was charged with five counts of aggravated sexual assault and one count of attempted aggravated sexual assault.
Harris tried to take a plea deal on all charges, agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for 40 years in prison, where he would be eligible for parole after 20 years.
In a rare move, 399th district judge Frank Castro rejected the plea deal.
“I’m not going to accept the plea agreement. There’s five aggravated sexual assaults, all of them allegedly involving guns and knives. In addition, the first victim in the first potential case to go to trial stated they had strong opposition,” Castro said.
As a result, Anton Harris would then go to trial.
The trial started for the attack in May of 2017, detectives testified that when they searched Harris’ home they found a gray hoodie, two guns, a knife and a rose-gold-colored Fossil watch that belonged to the victim.
The jury deliberated for five hours and came back with a guilty verdict.
Next came the sentencing phase.
Four other rape victims would take the stand and talk about their attacks.
“The defendant (Harris) has sentenced each one of those women that you heard testify to a life sentence, and he deserves a life sentence,” prosecutor Alaina Altis told the jury during closing arguments.
That testimony was enough for the jury to sentence Harris to 99 years in prison on the aggravated assault charge and 60 years on the aggravated robbery charge.
Harris still has four outstanding cases. At this point, we know his next court date is in May 2022.
According to the Rape Crisis Center San Antonio, every 73 seconds another American is sexually assaulted.
They have 24-hour crisis intervention available online and via phone at (210)349-7273.
The number for the National Sexual Assault Hotline is 1-(800)656-4673.
The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network also has national resources linked on their site.
Heather Shealy-Mawhirter, a licensed professional counselor associate, and Amanda Harper, a victim advocate with the Rape Crisis Center San Antonio spoke with KSAT 12 about the Medical Center Rapist.
Shealy-Mawhirter touched on the effects a serial rapist can have on a community.
“The effect of a repeated violent crime in a concentrated area would increase the need for caution, but decrease the general sense of felt safety and even after the individual is no longer free to commit such crimes,” she said.
After a sexual assault is reported, the victim will be taken for a SANE exam (sexual assault nurse examiner) then a victim is paired with a victim advocate who helps them through every step of their journey.
“I work with them through the entire process, from the exam to their forensic interview at CPD to court accompaniment as well when or if their case goes to court. I also consider myself a resource guru, so I hook them up with everything they need,” Harper said.
When looking at the days, weeks, months, and even years following an attack, a survivor’s path to healing is not linear.
“It’s important to really honor what they’re experiencing and need in the days and years to come, like you mentioned, and can naturally lead to struggles like anxiety and depression and understandably so. Those are normal natural responses to trauma, but also so are healing and grieving in ways that allow a person to regain power and a voice in their own life,” Shealy-Mawhirter said.
As survivors navigate and tell their stories in court, this can lead to some revictimization but it can also be a healing experience for them.
“It can come with some of that revictimization. And that’s some of you know what, what therapy can help with, as well as understanding how to navigate your story,” Shealy-Mawhirter said.
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