Serial rapist stalks vulnerable city while Staunton police, women’s college stay silent

Serial rapist stalks vulnerable city while Staunton police, women’s college stay silent
Serial rapist stalks vulnerable city while Staunton police, women’s college stay silent

STAUNTON — On the high of the ladder, within the sizzling July evening, he paused, trying in on a touchdown between the primary and second flooring of the home. He popped the display screen and the window slid up for him, unlocked, as he knew it could.

It wasn’t the primary home he’d damaged into. There had been observe. He’d been caught in Roanoke the yr earlier than, however his mom had written the court docket a plea for leniency for her son, and the choose had listened. The 2-year sentence had been suspended after 90 days, and he was free.

Simply days after shifting to this little city in March, the 20-year-old had begun his invasions once more.

He hoisted himself up on the sill, then hopped calmly down. He misplaced his footing for a second as he landed, and braced himself in opposition to the banister; then he hid in a room, and waited.

The “Stocking Masks Rapist” entered homes by chopping or eradicating window screens and climbing by open home windows. He terrorized the city of Staunton, Virginia, for many of 1979. (Re-creation picture)

Crouching within the silence, he knew he had gotten away with all of it to date. Subsequent to nothing had appeared within the newspaper to indicate the police had related any of his a number of break-ins.

It was July 1, 1979. Because the spring, he’d damaged his method into no less than 5 homes; in three of the homes he had stolen feminine undergarments, in addition to an merchandise or two of little worth. As police reviews famous, he’d ignored probably the most beneficial jewellery as he’d ransacked dresser drawers. It might be that he couldn’t differentiate between trinkets and true jewels. It might be he was after one thing else.

Twice, he had stunned ladies of their properties and raped them.

Ready now, he was actually on the identical road the place he’d raped a Mary Baldwin College scholar in her dorm room in March. Just a few months later he had struck once more, getting into by a window and raping a teen who was residence alone in her home close to Gypsy Hill Park.

Neither act of terrifying sexual violence, dedicated at knifepoint, had been reported within the native information. The police and the newspaper had remained as silent about these life-altering crimes as the person biding his time in the dead of night.

A door opened on the primary ground. From the place he crouched he might have heard folks conversing on the threshold after an evening out, speaking and laughing. Feminine voices. A dialog ending with farewells. Or simply the sound of a girl coming residence quietly to a dwelling she thought was empty. Then, the sound of the entrance door closing.

Somebody was arising the steps.

The intruder took a stocking from his pocket and slid it over his head to simply beneath his nostril.

He heard the sound of footwear flipped off, and the sigh of shifting sheets and mattress springs as somebody lay down in her mattress.

He pulled out a pocketknife and thumbed open the blade as he moved towards the bed room.


While James Bruce Robinson was attacking a girl on North New Road, a couple of blocks from the all-women’s college and a stone’s throw from three of the city’s historic church buildings, home windows throughout city have been open.

It was a sizzling summer time evening in Staunton within the Nineteen Seventies, and most homes have been not air-conditioned.

Leaving your window open was simply what you probably did in Staunton in 1979.

His sufferer had observed a ladder propped in opposition to her home when she obtained residence, however didn’t suppose it was trigger for alarm.

“No person had any purpose to be suspicious,” she mentioned in a 2022 interview.

The break-ins and rapes by a stocking masked assailant wielding a knife began in March 1979. But police kept that fact secret for months. And in those months, more women were assaulted.

The break-ins and rapes by a stocking masked assailant wielding a knife started in March 1979. However police saved that truth secret for months. And in these months, extra ladies have been assaulted.

“He waited till I’d gone to mattress and put the sunshine out. Then he jumped on high of me along with his knife and his stocking masks. It’s a kind of issues the place you say, this will’t presumably be occurring, I’m dreaming.”

It was a nightmare the city had opened itself as much as as a result of its residents weren’t warned.

Brenda Canning lived downtown most of her life. She was not concerned within the case, however might simply have been a sufferer: “I at all times left the window up, on the touchdown of the stairway,” she mentioned.

Because it wasn’t public information {that a} rapist was getting into properties by unlocked home windows, Staunton’s younger ladies — many dwelling alone — continued to unknowingly place themselves in danger, Canning and her buddies amongst them.

Most of city’s ladies did not but know {that a} rapist was on the free, however the cops did.

The Staunton Police Division knew the rapist’s technique effectively earlier than July. They have been conscious he was uncommon amongst sexual offenders — a stranger to each ladies he assaulted in March and June, regardless that most rapists are recognized by their victims.

On the highest of the police report for every of those rapes, the phrases “Do Not Publish” have been handwritten by the identical one who initialed the “Supervisor Approval” line on the backside of the web page: Staunton Chief of Police J.M. Boyers.

Police additionally have been conscious of a string of break-ins during which women’s undergarments have been stolen, however they weren’t reporting these crimes to the press. Or in the event that they have been, they weren’t showing in an in any other case thorough police blotter which detailed much less invasive infractions together with greater crimes.

The Boston Strangler case nearly 15 years earlier had proven the peril the general public confronted when police assumed a felony with a historical past of breaking-and-entering crimes would not escalate to sexual assault or homicide. However Staunton wasn’t Boston. It was far safer, everybody thought, and the police weren’t warning most people that somebody harmful was prowling the city in 1979.

Neither was its newspaper, recognized then as The Staunton Chief, the city’s family-owned every day paper since 1890.

Police had no leads. He was an evil shadow with out a title. To these he attacked and horribly traumatized, he didn’t also have a face; he wore a stocking over his head.


“I needed to really feel the ache.”

Judging from 82-year-old Noreen Renier’s voice on a 2019 name from Florida to Staunton, the harm doesn’t go away even 4 a long time later. It was not her ache, however she turned acquainted with it over that terrible yr.

It began at the area people college, with a hoop positioned in her hand by a rape survivor’s sister.

What occurred subsequent launched a chaotic profession for Renier as a high-profile psychic, who would go on to work with different police departments throughout the nation and develop into the primary and solely psychic who would lecture on the FBI coaching academy in Quantico.

Talking at Blue Ridge Group College within the late fall of 1979, she was approached by a younger lady who requested her to carry out a public service. She mentioned her sister had been raped. The police had no leads.

Renier practiced what she referred to as psychometry. The observe works on the concept that occasions go away traces or recollections on inanimate objects. Renier mentioned she might generally sense these hint recollections and discover herself in the midst of the expertise as if she was dwelling by it within the second.

Noreen Renier remembers the sister of a rape victim placing a ring in her hand after a speaking event at Blue Ridge Community College. The sister's memory is that she and a few other people approached Renier and talked. However it happened, that meeting led to the psychic visiting two crime scenes. (Re-creation image)

Noreen Renier remembers the sister of a rape sufferer putting a hoop in her hand after a talking occasion at Blue Ridge Group College. The sister’s reminiscence is that she and some different folks approached Renier and talked. Nevertheless it occurred, that assembly led to the psychic visiting two crime scenes. (Re-creation picture)

The lady handed Renier a ring and listened because the psychic held the ring and started speaking. What she mentioned was convincing sufficient for the sister to take to the Staunton police and demand that they bring about her in to assist.

Just a few weeks later, the psychic would go to the scene of that crime on the police’s request and put herself actually within the place of the sufferer, on her mattress, to explain particulars that made a reluctant believer out of the commonwealth’s legal professional.

Renier acknowledged that the rapist had climbed a ladder and opened the window on the stair touchdown.

While in a trance-like state, she drew a curious circle sample on her pocket book, saying the felony drove one thing that went round and round.

The police mentioned nothing, however they took her to the home of the second sufferer as effectively.

On leaving, she was requested if she had any extra insights in regards to the man they have been in search of.

“You’ll catch him by Christmas,” she mentioned.


Earlier than he left the home for the humid summer time evening, the person with the stocking masks on his head took $13 from his sufferer’s purse. She was unaware that her attacker had been in her residence a couple of months earlier than and had stolen a Westclock alarm, a hand-painted sweet field and a garnet ring.

Serial predators take souvenirs. In 1979, some Staunton ladies got here residence from a day at work to discover a dresser drawer open, undergarments strewn about.

Then ladies observed panties and different undergarments lacking after a break-in, while different extra beneficial gadgets have been left untouched of their jewellery packing containers.

The stocking masks rapist would later declare he typically threw away the clothes. However at times a selected merchandise would name to him and he’d take it, such because the garnet ring he stole from North New Road.

One other ring would convey Noreen Renier into the orbit of the case, and when he was captured, among the particulars about him she supplied police seemingly satisfied legislation enforcement they lastly had the rapist in custody on a trespassing cost.

However first, two extra ladies can be tragically victimized, and a city would erupt with concern and false accusations. “5 involved ladies” would drive the newspaper’s hand to publish particulars in regards to the crimes.

And within the white-dominated Southern city, amid pervasive institutional racism, it could be revealed that an harmless Black man had been incarcerated since March for the primary rape at the same time as the true rapist labored his method at will throughout downtown at evening.

That will not be the one false arrest earlier than the yr was over.

— Jeff Schwaner is a journalist at The Information Chief in Staunton and a regional storytelling and watchdog coach in USA TODAY Community-Southeast. Contact him at [email protected].


  • The whole lot modified when an newbie psychic turned concerned within the case on the insistence of a Staunton sufferer’s sister. A tall and placing lady from over the mountain in Ruckersville, the psychic instructed them issues that solely the police and the rapist’s victims knew. And extra.

  • Together with her instructions to search for a handprint, the only real piece of bodily proof within the case; and the way she was certain the rapist lived throughout the road from a theater, a element which might show important to an investigation a particular agent would name one of the crucial essential of his profession.

PART 1: Serial rapist stalks vulnerable city while Staunton police, women’s college stay silent

PART 2: After a friend attacked, a young writer and his cigar-smoking landlady wonder what can be done

PART 3: Cops admit predator is at large. Staunton women told to use ‘can of hair spray’ for defense.

PART 4: ‘Everyone’s scared to walk outside their houses — or stay in them’

PART 5: Black men targeted by police, citizens in a panicked Virginia town as intruder assaults fifth woman

PART 6: ‘You got two innocent people in jail, and a rapist still out there’

PART 7: Women make demands. A psychic makes predictions. And a Virginia city holds its breath.

PART 8: Things go ‘round and round’: Two unlikely sources help police close in on Staunton predator

PART 9: After a year of dread and violence, a Staunton suspect confesses, but is there evidence?

PART 10: Fear, racism, misogyny: Legacy of Staunton’s tumultuous 1979 echoed long after crime spree ended

This text initially appeared on Staunton Information Chief: Stocking mask rapist terrorized Staunton VA in 1979: History of case

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