‘Roaming Rapist’ gets 396 to life

Dereck Sanders’ DNA connected him to 10 rapes.
Dereck Sanders’ DNA connected him to 10 rapes. afurillo@sacbee.com

One of the victims at Dereck Jermaine Sanders’ sentencing hearing Friday told the convicted rapist that because of him, “I am scared of passing men on the street.”

Another said she was “so angry” after he raped her that “hate took over me,” and things got so bad with her family they wound up putting her in a group home.

“You took my sleep, my sense of safety and security, my calm nature and my self-esteem,” said a third. “You gave me fear, shame and self-loathing.”

From April 1998 through March 2003, Sanders raped and sexually attacked women all over Sacramento, in a range so far and wide that law enforcement nicknamed him “The Roaming Rapist.” On Oct. 15, a Sacramento Superior Court jury convicted him on 28 felony counts for his attacks on 10 women.

At Friday’s sentencing, the third woman concluded her remarks by saying, “I would like to know how that kind of damage can be measured.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steve White couldn’t speak for all of the victims and their extended families and friends that included another 100 or so people, in the third woman’s estimate. But he gave them all an answer on how the sex-crime spree is going to measure up with respect to the serial rapist, and the number was a big one – 396 years to life in prison.

“I get that this is going to far exceed the years you have left in your life,” White told Sanders, just before imposing the centuries-long term. “But I think the symbolic importance of accounting, in the strongest possible way, the years that should be paid for the violence you inflicted and the crimes you committed – it should be paid in full.”

Sanders, 41, was arrested in November 2012 through a “familial” DNA hit that led investigators to the defendant’s brother. Ladell Lamont Sanders was arrested in 2011 and later convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison on a serial rape case of his own.

Authorities said an investigation led them from Ladell to Dereck Sanders. In November 2012, a surveillance team tracked Dereck to a McDonald’s in Rancho Cordova. When Sanders finished eating, he deposited his trash in a receptacle at White Rock Park.

Investigators retrieved it, extracted some DNA and matched it to the victims. They were two teenaged girls in Carmichael, a bicyclist in a field at Roseville Road and Watt Avenue, two prostitutes on Stockton Boulevard, a woman at La Mancha Way and Tangerine Avenue in the south area, a woman in Arcade Creek Park, a woman in Howe Avenue Park, a woman who got in a traffic accident not too far from Sacramento State, and a woman coming out of The Raven, a bar on J Street in East Sacramento.

“He has made me aware of the brutal darkness that dwells in this world,” the first victim said. She told the judge she still lives “in the same neighborhood I lived in then, at the time of the incident, so I have to constantly drive by the same street and the same field that he raped me in.”

After her rape, the second woman said, “sex had little meaning,” and “only now am I able to understand the value of it.” She said she has trouble forming relationships, and although she’s finally beginning to recover, “I believe I am destined to be alone forever.”

Deputy District Attorney Rob Gold said the harm that can be laid to Sanders is “immeasurable.” Sentences such as 396 years to life are only reserved for “the worst of the worst,” Gold said. Even then, it’s not enough of a payment for what Sanders has taken, the prosecutor said.

Gold offered Sanders an atonement option.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people in law enforcement, and they want to understand how he could do all of these things, coming from a family (where) his brother also was a serial rapist,” Gold said. “So there will be value if Mr. Sanders saw fit to talk to law enforcement some day. What was it that made him the type of person he is, so that law enforcement could help prevent that in the future?

“Perhaps some day he could do something positive to show something to the victims that he is worthy of forgiveness,” Gold said. “Until now, he’s done nothing, except harm people.”

Gold said, “The People hope he will get out of denial.” But there was no such departure happening from the defense table Friday when Sanders took his few moments to address the court.

First, he tried to fire his lawyer, David Bonilla. Then he accused Gold of prosecutorial misconduct. The jury also got it wrong, Sanders said, due to its own misconduct.

He told the three victims in the courtroom to “go on the Internet and look at the evidence against me.” He said it “proves my innocence.” To support his case, Sanders cited discrepancies between his own physical appearance and the descriptions of him given to law enforcement by the women who were being raped in the streets, in the dark.

White listened until Sanders was finished before the judge wondered aloud how “you continue to define yourself as the victim.”

“This is the most overwhelmingly strong case against a serial rapist and serial sexual predator that I’ve ever seen,” White said.

Call The Bee’s Andy Furillo, (916) 321-1141. Follow him on Twitter @andyfurillo.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee