CAMBRIDGE — A match of fingerprints and DNA led to the arrest and now the conviction of a Delaware man for the sexual assault of a Cambridge woman in October 2002.
Mark Richard Eskridge, 43, of Laurel was convicted of sex offenses and related burglary charges Thursday, Feb. 3, by a Dorchester County Circuit Court jury after an hour of deliberation in the case prosecuted by Dorchester State’s Attorney Michelle Barnes and heard before Judge Brett Wilson.
Eskridge was defended by Jane Tolar of Easton, who argued that Eskridge had consensual sex with the victim. Taking the stand in his own defense, Eskridge spun a tale of an encounter with the victim at a party during which he said they used crack cocaine.
Eskridge also testified that he was visiting his father, whose home is near the place where the crimes occurred, during the first week of October 2002.
In rebuttal evidence, Barnes offered the medical report of the victim’s examination following the assault, which showed no drugs or alcohol in her system.
Barnes also produced a witness who had attended the party which Eskridge claimed the victim had attended. The witness for the prosecution said Eskridge wasn’t at the party and neither was the victim and that “neither the victim nor the defendant were known to the person at the home,” according to a press release on the conviction from the state’s attorney’s office.
The woman Eskridge attacked testified that she was awakened in her Bucktown home at 2 a.m. Oct. 3, 2002, by a man standing near her bed holding a butcher knife and a rolling pin in a threatening manner. He told her to do what he wanted and she would not be hurt, then tied her up with a cord he had cut from her can opener.
Breaking free, the woman tried to run out of the back door of her home but Eskridge grabbed her and, after a struggle, dragged her back to her bedroom, where he ripped up sheets to create a blindfold and gag and to use to tie her up. Then Eskridge sexually assaulted the woman.
Throughout the two hours he was in her home, the woman testified, Eskridge repeatedly threatened her with the butcher knife, saying he would “operate” on her, threatening to harm her preschool-age son, who was sleeping down the hall, and asking why he shouldn’t kill her.
Before he left, Eskridge told the woman he had people watching her house who would kill her and her son if she called the police in the next half hour.
Once Eskridge left her home, the woman crawled through the darkness to her telephone and dialed 911.
When they answered the call for help, Dorchester County Sheriff’s deputies had to cut some of the bindings from the woman, who was described as hysterical. She was examined at the Memorial Hospital at Easton, where DNA evidence was recovered which eventually proved a match to Eskridge.
The nurse who examined the woman described “significant bruising and extremely swollen hands from the tight bindings which the perpetrator had placed around the victim’s wrists.”
Crime Scene Technician Kathy Webster testified about pieces of glass broken from the front window of the house to gain entry the morning of the assault. Webster found an almost full set of fingerprints on the glass.
Maryland State Police latent print examiner Timothy Ostendarp testified that the fingerprints on the broken glass were submitted to a national data base. In July 2004, the database found a match to the fingerprints.
While canvassing the neighborhood after the assault, sheriff’s deputies found a neighbor who had scared away someone they’d heard trying to open the door of their home. Fingerprints taken from the door knob also were a positive match to Eskridge.
During the trial, Dorchester County Sheriff’s Detective Michael Rickwood testified that after being informed of the fingerprint match, Eskridge was arrested at his home in Laurel. Saliva swabs provided the DNA evidence used to convict Eskridge based on testimony provided by Kristy Stone, a forensics DNA expert with the Maryland State Police Crime Lab.
Eskridge was found guilty on eight charges including a first degree sex offense, first degree assault, use of a deadly weapon with intent to injure, false imprisonment and burglary. A pre-sentence investigation was ordered.