Gazette opinion: Convicted serial rapist forfeits his freedom forever

2014-07-29T00:00:00Z 2014-07-30T12:52:07Z Gazette opinion: Convicted serial rapist forfeits his freedom forever The Billings Gazette
July 29, 2014 12:00 am

Fourteen months after our community learned that a serial rapist had attacked several young women in their homes, he has been sentenced to 22 consecutive life terms, plus 60 years and 6 months.

Toby Eugene Griego’s crimes first came to public attention at the end of May 2013 when Montana State University Billings issued an alert, warning students and staff that several home-invasion rapes had been reported in Billings. None of the attacks took place on campus, but two victims were students. Federal law requires the university to issue safety warnings when sexual assaults involving students are reported.

For the next three months, Billings was gripped by fear. Another attack was reported on July 2. Citizens started locking their doors all the time. Seven hundred women turned out for a self-defense seminar sponsored by Billings Police Department at MSU Billings. The rumor mill ran rampant. Many of the horrible rumors turned out to be true.

The publicity helped police crack the case. A tip about a man stalking women at Hobby Lobby led detectives to Griego by July 15. Officers commenced intensive surveillance of Griego who had taken great care to leave no physical evidence linking himself to the victims.

Dilligent investigation by police detectives trained in recovering images and video deleted on Griego’s cell phone provided crucial evidence.

A registered sex offender, Griego had been convicted of four attacks on women in New Mexico, including the rape and kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl. Inexplicably, that series of serious crimes resulted in a plea bargain for Griego to serve only 12 years in prison. Although his parole officer said Griego had made “no attempt to change his predatory views toward females and cannot even manage to control these impulses on parole,” he was released without supervision.

Most dangerous predator

In Billings, County Attorney Scott Twito’s staff presented a solid case for conviction at trial. The prosecution was led by Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza and Deputy County Attorney Juli Pierce. District Judge Russell Fagg had the last word, telling Griego: “I’ve never seen a more dangerous criminal or a bigger predator in our community.”

Fagg followed prosecutors’ recommendations in sentencing Griego to 22 consecutive life sentences, for each time he raped, kidnapped, robbed and assaulted the women. By ordering consecutive life sentences, Fagg acknowleged that each crime must be counted, each act of wanton violence must be addressed.

That did not happen in New Mexico where Griego got concurrent sentences despite his increasingly violent crimes against women.

Since Griego violated the peace of this community, we have learned to be more conscious of security. Those personal safety recommendations that BPD and MSU Billings made last year are every bit as important this year and next.

The Police Department should have learned that keeping the community informed on a timely basis reduces panic and rumors. Moreover, it was a tip from the public that helped solve this case.

We see clearly that local law enforcement, prosecutors and our court system need resources to effectively handle complex criminal cases. They must be held accountable for using resources appropriately to serve the public.

Help for rape victims

The value of community services for victims of sexual assaulted became much more apparent. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners at Billings Clinic provided important assistance to the women who were attacked and to the prosecution.

Ultimately, the efforts of many law enforcement and community professionals provided the greatest measure of justice possible in this case. Relatively few criminals are utterly beyond hope of rehabilitation. Griego’s record of extreme cruelty against women makes him one of the hopeless few.

Griego is sociopath and a sex offender at high risk of reoffending, according to Dr. Robert Page, president of the Montana Sexual Offender Treatment Association. This criminal must be locked up, as Fagg ordered, in the maximum security unit at Montana State Prison until he dies.

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

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