- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 8, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — For almost two decades after Laura Neuman was raped, she repeatedly asked Baltimore police whether they had made any progress toward finding her assailant.Her persistence finally paid off, and the man who broke into her house and attacked her when she was a college student in 1983 has been in jail for the crime since October.Now Miss Neuman, 38, an Annapolis businesswoman, wants to help other women find their attackers no matter the length of time since the crime was committed.”Something needs to be done,” Miss Neuman said. “Someone needs to tell women they do have a voice. They can be their own advocate. They don’t need to be ashamed.”She recently organized the Laura Neuman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that will hold its first fund-raiser tomorrow in Baltimore.The foundation will raise money to help test DNA evidence and will educate women about how to contact law-enforcement agencies and avoid getting lost in the system, she said.”Women have a responsibility to step forward and advocate their own position,” Miss Neuman said. “If enough women do that, it will effect change.”Miss Neuman expects the event will attract about 300 people, including Debbie Smith, a Virginia woman whose case inspired legislation introduced in Congress that would provide federal money to solve rape cases.Miss Neuman was a student at Essex Community College when a man broke into her house, put a gun to her head and raped her. She said that her family did not believe that she had been raped, and that police did little to solve the crime.Miss Neuman didn’t give up, frequently calling police over the years to find out whether they had a suspect. Finally, she connected last year with two Baltimore detectives — Bernard Holthaus and Chester Norton — who were willing to take on the case.Three days later they identified a suspect, Alphonso Hill, who admitted to the crime. He is now serving 15 years in prison.A fingerprint left on a window in Miss Neuman’s apartment led detectives to Hill. He has been arrested several times, and his prints were contained in a computer database maintained by police.Advocates for rape victims believe that more cases could be solved through the use of DNA tests and fingerprint databases.DNA evidence from as many as 500,000 unsolved rapes sits on shelves in police departments nationwide, according to a Web site for Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who has been active in helping women solve cases. Baltimore has DNA from about 3,400 rapes.Miss Neuman said she believes her case is unusual only because it was solved. She wants her foundation to become a clearinghouse for women, giving access to telephone numbers and legal advice.”There’s a reason rape is not a high-priority crime,” Miss Neuman said. “Women have not been vocal about forcing this issue. They want to go back into their lives quietly and be comforted. They don’t work through the criminal justice system and push for prosecution.”

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