With NorCal Rapist victims glaring at him from the front of the courtroom, suspect Roy Charles Waller made a first brief appearance Monday afternoon in Sacramento Superior Court, where he faces a dozen felony counts that could lead to a life sentence.
Waller, 58, who is being held without bail in the Sacramento County Jail, barely spoke during the five-minute arraignment and did not enter a plea to the charges he faces in an October 2006 double rape in North Natomas.
But some of the women who authorities say are victims of the NorCal Rapist spree had plenty to say after the court session.
Nicole Earnest-Payte, who was 21 and believed to be the NorCal Rapist’s first victim in a 1991 attack in Rohnert Park, said she briefly locked eyes with Waller as he turned inside the steel cage that holds suspects in the courtrooms on the first floor of the Main Jail in downtown Sacramento.
“When he turned around and looked squarely at us, straight in our eyes, I glared right back,” Earnest-Payte said, adding that she felt more anger toward the suspect than fear.
“That was the first time I felt angry,” she said. “It was the first time that I finally thought, ‘Yeah, there you are, and you look fairly pathetic.’ I was a little afraid, but not afraid of him.”
“Right at this moment, I feel great,” Earnest-Payte added. “He’s in an orange jumpsuit.”
Earnest-Payte said she woke up in her Rohnert Park home on the couch to find a masked man with a gun preparing to attack her, and that until 2006 no one had told her she was the victim of a suspected serial rapist.
Earnest-Payte also praised Sacramento Police Department Detective Avis Beery for sticking with the case for years, calling Beery “our superhero.”
She emphasized that although the assault had affected her it did not define her life.
“I want to tell him that we’re all strong women and I have an amazing life and he did not steal my soul from me,” she said. “He’ll never steal my life from me.”
Earnest-Payte was one of at least two NorCal Rapist victims who came to court Monday. The other was Rosalyn Anderson, who was attacked in July 1997 in her Chico home and, despite being tied up, managed to slip out of her bindings long enough to stab her assailant in the arm with scissors.
“He looked at me, he looked at me with more fear than he ever had,” Anderson said. “I’m just glad justice is being served.”
Anderson sat in court with her sister, Maria Nauman, who said the two were immensely grateful that law enforcement had not given up on the case.
“Twenty-one years, we’re just really grateful to be here,” Nauman said. “We’ve been waiting for this a long time. This has affected her life immensely. We thought maybe he had died. We thought maybe he got scared into hiding.”
Waller is suspected of attacking at least 11 women throughout Northern California from 1991 through 2006, when the assaults apparently halted. He likely will soon face charges in other counties where similar attacks occurred.
Judge Jaime R. Roman appointed Sacramento defense attorney Joseph Farina to represent Waller and set the next hearing for Oct. 30.
Farina said outside court afterward that he did not expect the case to go to trial for another two to three years.
Farina got word he was appointed 30 minutes before court began, just enough time to throw on a suit and rush to the county jail. He is in a pool of private attorneys who take cases when the Public Defender’s Office either has a conflict of interest or too many cases.
Farina noted that there is a “voluminous amount” of evidence that will need to be turned over by prosecutors Chris Ore and Keith Hill.
“This will probably be the largest case that I’ve handled in my career,” Farina said after the arraignment.
Farina said he didn’t know whether Waller would seek private counsel, but that he asked the defendant to “give me the opportunity to outline what you’re facing.”
“We don’t know the extent of the DNA,” Farina said. “Do they have fingerprints? There are a number of counties spanning Northern California (where the crimes occurred), so we have to look at that, too.”
The charges Waller faces in Sacramento stem from the last known attack, an Oct. 14, 2006, incident in which a man with a handgun tied up two women inside their North Natomas home with duct tape and assaulted them for six hours.
An arrest warrant filed in court documents say the assailant “likely made entry through a bedroom window that was left ajar.”
After the assaults, the suspect “took the victims to separate bathrooms and washed their entire bodies,” court documents say, an apparent and unsuccessful attempt to erase DNA evidence.
“He then took them back to the master bedroom,” court documents say. “He told them not to call police.
“He told them he knew where they lived. He told them he took pictures of them, and if they reported it to police he would show them to family and friends.”
Waller was arrested Thursday by Sacramento police as he arrived at his job as a safety specialist on the campus of UC Berkeley. The married Benicia resident had worked there since 1992.
Authorities announced the arrest in a press conference Friday at which they described entering years-old DNA evidence left at the scene of the attacks into the genealogy website GEDmatch and discovering similarities to genetic code from a close relative of Waller’s.
Investigators used that link to essentially build a family tree from the relative’s information until they got to Waller, whose age, physical description and past addresses led them to him, a process that took 10 days. Investigators then set up surveillance on Waller’s home for six days and retrieved a drinking straw from his trash that provided a DNA sample that matched DNA from the assaults, court records say.
The process was nearly identical to the one that led to the April arrest of East Area Rapist/Golden State Killer suspect Joseph James DeAngelo at his Citrus Heights home after a four-decade search.
The NorCal Rapist attacks began in 1991 in Rohnert Park, and eventually expanded into six counties: Sonoma, Solano, Contra Costa, Yolo, Butte and Sacramento. Prosecutors still are discussing how and where Waller will be prosecuted, with the possibility that the cases will be consolidated and prosecuted in one location.
Sacramento County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Grippi attended the afternoon hearing and said later that the counties with NorCal Rapist cases are in “further discussions” about whether to try all of the cases in Sacramento.
“The law supports a single trial,” he said.
All of the affected counties are capable of putting on the case, Grippi said, adding that even with the number of attorneys and investigators dedicated to the massive East Area Rapist case, Sacramento County “has the ability and the resources.”
“This is what prosecutors want to do,” he said. “We don’t have to force them into it. They want to do it and they’re capable.”
Prosecutors in the East Area Rapist case, which includes 13 murder charges from slayings in Sacramento, Orange, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties, agreed in August to combine their prosecution and hold a single trial in Sacramento. DeAngelo, whose next court appearance is in December, also faces 13 rape-related charges.