Griego guilty on all counts: Ending a serial rapist's 'reign of terror'

2014-04-14T20:00:00Z 2014-07-25T13:47:21Z Griego guilty on all counts: Ending a serial rapist's 'reign of terror'By EDDIE GREGG The Billings Gazette

A 12-person jury Monday convicted Toby Eugene Griego, a “true serial rapist,” of all 27 charges against him — including 10 counts of rape — stemming from home-invasion attacks on four women last year.

Investigators testified that Griego, 42, left little or no evidence at the scenes of the crimes. However, a forensic phone examiner extracted deleted pictures and video from the rapist’s cellphone: pictures and video showing some of the women — and Griego’s face — as the attacks were being committed.

“We have, in my career, never had this kind of serial crime,” said Billings Police Chief Rich St. John, adding that Griego is “a true serial rapist” with “probably sociopathic-type behavior.”

The jury of five men and seven women reached unanimous verdicts of guilty on each count he was charged with after about 3 ½ hours of deliberation. The jury found him guilty of 10 counts of sexual intercourse without consent, six counts of robbery, four counts of aggravated kidnapping, two counts of aggravated assault, one count of assault with a weapon, two counts of intimidation and one count of attempted sexual intercourse without consent — all felonies. He is also guilty of a misdemeanor count of surreptitious visual observation or recordation in a residence.

As with the rest of the trial, Griego appeared emotionless as the guilty verdicts were read off one by one at about

3 p.m. Members of his family could be heard and seen sobbing as he was handcuffed and led out of the packed courtroom.

“Hopefully, we have achieved a goal that he can never hurt another woman again,” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Rod Souza said after the trial was over. “I hope that brings closure to the four victims here.”

A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled. Because of Griego’s criminal history in New Mexico, which includes attacks on multiple victims and the rape of a 16-year-old girl, he will face a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole under Montana law.

Griego, who was represented by state public defenders Tom Bartleson and David Duke, chose not to testify in his trial.

Griego attacked the four victims on Jan. 27, April 25 and May 27 and July 2 of last year.

Billings police detectives, including lead investigators Ken Paharik and Mike Beckers, testified last week the case was extremely difficult to investigate early on because Griego left no fingerprints or DNA evidence, cleaned the crime scenes, forced the rape victims to bathe and stole any evidence that could have linked him to the attacks.

“This is one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen, by one of the most sophisticated offenders I’ve ever seen,” Souza said.

Ending a ‘reign of terror’

The state used all of its allotted 70 minutes during closing arguments Monday morning before the jury went into deliberation.

“We satisfied our burden,” Souza said, as he spent about 60 minutes recapping the state’s case. “It really is that simple. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming.”

Bartleson, who spoke for about 16 minutes, delivered the defense’s closing argument.

“It has been suggested that I’m going to ask you to excuse the defendant for a lack of evidence, to excuse any failures in the state’s case because things are missing,” he told the jury. “And that’s not what I’m going to ask you to do. I’m simply going to ask you to hold the state accountable to its burden of proof, of proving each element of each offense beyond a reasonable doubt in this case.”

He argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove several of the charges against his client, including two rape charges stemming from the Jan. 27 attack on the first victim.

He also argued that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove some of the robbery charges against Griego alleging that he stole personal items from the victims during the attacks.

Bartleson argued that for the robbery charges to stick, the state needed to prove the victims were in fear at the exact times the robberies were committed.

“There was fear that night,” Bartleson said. “But it wasn’t the same sort of (fear as) dude walks into a Kwik-E-Mart with a knife and says, ‘Give me a 12-pack and all your money.’ ”

“My question to you is ‘When were they not in fear?’ ” Chief Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Juli M. Pierce asked the jurors during her rebuttal to the defense’s closing argument.

Bartleson had also argued that the state made a weak case for charges 19-27, the charges stemming from the July 2 attack on the fourth victim.

Bartleson pointed out that detectives have testified that no DNA evidence or trace evidence was ever found linking Griego or anyone else to any of the attacks, and that none of the items Griego is accused of stealing from the victims were ever recovered.

Pierce responded by pointing out the state also had images from Griego’s phone that show the fourth victim watering flowers outside her home on June 26, six days before that attack.

Those images, Pierce argued, coupled with the fourth victim’s voice identification of Griego as the rapist and the myriad similarities between the four attacks point to one attacker: Griego.

As she wrapped up her rebuttal to Bartleson’s argument, Pierce had two side-by-side images projected for the jury to see.

On the right: A mug shot of Griego.

On the left: The still image from Griego’s phone that appears to show his face during one of the attacks.

“This is the picture of evil,” Pierce said. “This is the defendant. He is your eyewitness to the crime. He gave you direct evidence that he committed these crimes.”

“Hold him accountable for his reign of terror and find him guilty of all 27 charges,” she concluded.

Victim testimony essential

All four victims were among the 29 witnesses who testified during the five days of testimony in the trial. All four said they woke to a man in their bedrooms, and that the man bound, gagged, blindfolded and assaulted them.

“This case could not have been made without those four strong ladies being willing to come in here and testify about the worst moments of their lives,” Souza said Monday afternoon. “We needed them in this case, and they did it.”

The four women identified themselves in videos and photos found on Griego’s phone, and described dozens of similarities between the attacks. That, detectives said, made them realize the attacks were being committed by the same man.

“I woke up to a hand over my mouth and a knife to my throat and someone telling me not to scream,” the first victim testified last Tuesday.

Three of the women were raped repeatedly with foreign objects and forced to bathe or shower off.

“It seemed to go on forever,” the first victim said.

The second victim, who said she awoke early on April 25 to a man by her bed, testified she was bound and gagged, but was able to fight her attacker off.

“I was terrified,” she said during her testimony a week ago. “I didn’t know if I was going to get raped or killed or what was going to happen.”

The last two victims testified they were taken from their homes and forced to make transactions at ATMs at Billings banks.

Souza and Pierce presented as evidence time- and date-stamped surveillance footage showing the last two victims making the transactions May 27 and July 2.

The third and fourth victims said after being taken to the ATMs they were taken back to their homes and raped again.

“If I tried to look I would be repeatedly hit in the head and he would say, ‘Don’t look, don’t look,’ so I didn’t,” the woman who was attacked May 27 said during her testimony Wednesday.

“When you’re in your own room and a strange man is violating you, it is the most horrible thing I’ve ever been through,” the fourth victim said Wednesday.

Serial rapist

Detectives Paharik and Beckers testified they realized they were looking for one rapist after the third attack May 27.

On May 29, St. John notified the community that police were investigating multiple rape cases that appeared to be connected, all involving college-age women.

Paharik testified Friday that investigators received hundreds of tips in the following weeks.

And July 15, about two weeks after the attack on the fourth victim, police received a Crimestoppers tip that a man, identified by police as Griego, had stalked a woman at Hobby Lobby.

“It was that Crimestoppers tip that put law enforcement onto Toby Griego,” Souza said Friday.

Detectives put him under surveillance and executed search warrants Aug. 22 that led to the seizure of Griego’s phone and other property, including his shoes, which a forensic shoe examiner matched to muddy shoe prints found outside the home of the woman attacked May 27.

On Aug. 23, Billings Police Detective Jim Woog, an FBI-trained forensic phone examiner, was able to extract deleted images of some of the victims from Griego’s phone. Griego was arrested that day without incident.

Souza said that every officer in the detective division of the Billings Police Department took part in putting Griego under surveillance and searching his residence.

“That detective division is incredible,” Souza said. “And the city of Billings is fortunate to have men and women working in that detective department who put in so much effort. They put together a great investigation, and the two lead detectives, Paharik and Beckers, they invested a ton of time in this.”

Chief St. John said he is proud of efforts of the community, the county attorney’s office and his department to bring Griego to justice.

“I can’t speak highly enough for members of the department, especially the detectives who helped bring closure to the families,” he said.

Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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