It was a crime that DeKalb District Attorney Robert James called “extremely violent and vicious.”
The victim of a February 2011 rape inside a Stone Mountain church said her “life was impacted unforgettably.”
Church congregants and supporters wept in the courtroom as the victim, a church worker, described the assault and its continuing effects during a hearing June 29 where John Russell Carver, 51, of Atlanta, pleaded guilty to 10 counts including rape, armed robbery, aggravated battery, aggravated assault, false imprisonment, burglary and possession of a knife during commission of a felony.
“This is terrible not just in what was done to our victim….but because it was a violation of the sanctity of a holy place,” James said. “Whatever one’s belief is, places of worship are holy, so this is a terrible thing.”
According to the victim, she went to her church on a Saturday to perform some errands. While on the way to the church, she called a fellow church member to discuss some business. The victim stayed on the phone when she arrived at the church.
While in the church building doing her errands, the woman heard the church’s doorbell ring.
“While still on the phone, I went to the door to check and discovered a man who appeared to be in need,” the victim said.
“I cracked the door to speak to him,” she said. “To my surprise he pulled the door open and approached me with a drawn knife, lunging forward.
“I stepped back and recall saying, ‘Sir, we have money and resources to help you. Please don’t hurt me,’” she said.
The church member on the phone heard the commotion and immediately hung up and called E911.
When E911 operators asked the church member where the incident was taking place, she did not know for sure, but guessed that it was at the church and called other members to go to the church.
“In the meantime, the perpetrator was singular in purpose—to get money,” the victim told the judge.
Carver attacked her “even though I tried to speak to him reasonably,” the victim said.
Carver “put his hands around my neck,” she recounted. “The force was so strong that I was pushed to the floor. As the pressure increased on my neck, my head was forced back and hit on something hard.”
The victim passed out.
During this time, the victim’s head was stomped. The bones in her face were broken after she was kicked. She was strangled, raped and left unconscious and naked in the church.
“I do not remember being discovered and being stabilized in the ambulance on the way to the hospital,” the victim said. “I do remember going out of consciousness and entering in a state of what I would call being in a cocoon.”
While the victim was in the hospital she remembers her first look into a mirror.
“I saw the outline of boot print in dried blood on my face,” she said. “It was difficult to open my eyes.”
Sixteen months after the attack, the victim said her recovery is continuing.
“I had to learn how to walk again and my head was always swimming,” she said. “Even to this day…I have trouble with my head swimming.”
The woman said she has had difficulty speaking, standing and has little stamina. She gets dizzy easily and sometimes has trouble with her thought processes.
During her recovery, she has seen a team of specialists including a neurosurgeon, voice therapy specialist, podiatrist and ophthalmologist.
Before Carver was sentenced to life in prison, the victim told the judge that her hope was that “the perpetrator in this case would not be put in the position to be a repeat offender.”
The victim said the effects of the attack were widespread, touching her husband, family and community groups.
“Because this attack took place in the church building itself, members of the congregation of all ages were affected,” she said. “This act impacted congregants at a visceral, spiritual and very personal level.
“I pray God’s healing grace will be constant in the lives of all of us impacted by these events,” she said.