By Joel Hall
After being acquitted twice on charges associated with rape -- due to a lack of evidence -- a Morrow man was convicted, this week, of aggravated assault, criminal attempt to commit rape, false imprisonment, and simple battery, according to prosecutors.
A jury found Cameron Wayne Wright, 21, guilty on five out of six criminal charges in Clayton County Superior Court, Wednesday, according to Clayton County Assistant District Attorney Mike Thurston. He said Wright was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
Thurston, the lead prosecutor in the case, said the conviction was made possible by the work of the Clayton County District Attorney's Crimes Against Women Unit, which was established in October of last year.
According to Thurston, through the research of an investigator and three other attorneys, prosecutors were able to connect the dots to a series of similar sexual assaults, including a 2002 incident for which Wright served time in the Clayton Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC).
"The first reports I have was when Cameron was 9 years old," Thurston said. "As an elementary school student, he was touching kids inappropriately in school," he said. "The first major episode was in 2002, when he didn't just touch children inappropriately," Thurston said.
"When he [Wright] was 14, he lured a 9-year-old girl into the woods, by asking her to help him find a toy," he said. "She went into the woods with him, and he grabbed her arm and dragged her deeper into the woods."
During the incident, which took place near Sunset Drive in Jonesboro, Thurston said, Wright ripped off the girl's pants and shoes and attempted to rape her. He said the girl was able to fight off Wright, and make her way to the home of a nearby stranger, who called the police.
Following the incident, Wright was charged with aggravated child molestation, and sentenced to serve time at the Clayton Regional Youth Detention Center (RYDC), until he was 17 years old, according to Thurston.
In August of 2007, just two years after being released from the RYDC, Wright was allegedly involved in the attempted rape of another woman. According to court documents, the incident took place on Thomas Road, only a few blocks from the location of the first attempted rape that landed him in juvenile detention.
"A young woman was walking down the road at 4:30 ... in the morning to get milk for her family," Thurston said. "She was pulled off the road into the woods, and he [Wright] attempted to rape her," he said.
"Fortunately, a car was passing at the same time and she jumped in the car," said Thurston. "That person was able to get the tag number of the [Wright's] vehicle and he was arrested shortly thereafter," he said.
Thurston said Wright stood trial in the case, but was acquitted, due to "lack of evidence."
Later, in September 2008, according to court documents, Wright allegedly forced his way into the home of a Morrow woman, locked her 3-year-old son in another room, and allegedly raped the woman. Thurston said, following a jury trial, Wright was also acquitted in the 2008 case, due to lack of evidence.
He said the outcome was different, however, in the October 2008 attempted rape of another Morrow woman, who was taking a walk along Meadow Wood Drive.
"She was taking a Sunday morning walk when this total stranger [was] stalking her, and dragged her to the wood line at a lake in her neighborhood," Thurston said. "She hit him with her car keys and he began to bleed, and he bled on her sweatshirt and sweat pants," the assistant district attorney said.
"He [Wright] was able to get away ... but the DNA evidence absolutely pinned him to being there at the scene."
In addition to the October 2008 victim's testimony, prosecutors, this week, called Wright's first recorded victim -- the once 9-year old girl, who is now 17 years old -- to the witness stand, Thurston said.
"We were able to establish a history of similar transactions ... how he would drag women out into the woods, the fact that he showed no remorse, the fact that he went straight for their pants," Thurston said. "I'm extraordinarily proud of the people of Clayton County and their verdict ..." he continued.
"This individual, if he would have walked, he would have continued to be a menace to our community."
District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson said Wright would be available for parole, eventually. However, she described the case as a huge success for the Crimes Against Women Unit. "I'm very proud of Mike Thurston and his unit," Lawson said. "There are just so many crimes against women. They [Crimes Against Women Unit] can devote all of their time to the intricacies of these cases, and get all the evidence they need," Lawson continued.
"I'm sure we will write the parole board and ask that he [Wright] not be paroled."
Wright's attorney, Darrell B. Reynolds, Sr., could not be reached for comment on Thursday.