MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WUSA9) -- A 64-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the 1977 rape of a Rockville woman. Authorities say the DNA database was "crucial" in the conviction of Richard Eugene Ricketts.
Officials say that Ricketts was 29 years old when he raped the 25-year-old woman in a parking lot on Congressional Lane on October 24, 1977. According to the police statement of probable cause, the woman had parked at her apartment building after work and had started walking toward the building when she was attacked from behind. A man put one arm around her neck and his other hand over her mouth before forcing her to the ground and pulling up her dress, according to the statement. He then raped her, and when he was done he started running away, according to the document. A neighbor who had heard her screams chased after him but couldn't catch him, according to police. They then called for police.
The woman was able to describe her attacker before going to the hospital, where staff took DNA samples from her clothing. Follow-up investigations in 1977 and 1978 were unable to identify a suspect but in 2011, the case was reopened by the Montgomery County Cold Case Unit. The DNA samples were searched against the Maryland and National Convicted Offenders Database and in August, detectives found they matched Richard Eugene Ricketts, according to documents. His profile was in the Florida Convicted Offenders Database from a 1999 conviction for burglary and sexual battery, said police, and he was also convicted in 1979 in Maryland for a rape and burglary.
According to the police statement, Ricketts lived in Montgomery County during the time of the 1977 rape.
Ricketts was convicted of first degree rape in the 1977 case.