Judge sentences Kent caregiver to 8 1/2 years for rape
By STEVE HUNTER
Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter
August 14, 2009 · 3:45 PM
A 32-year-old Kent man was sentenced Friday to the maximum 8 1/2 years in prison for the second-degree rape of a physically and mentally disabled woman he attacked while working as her caregiver.
Joseph W. Thurura was arrested in June 2008 for investigation of second-degree rape by Kent Police for attacks between Dec. 1, 2007 and March 18, 2008 against the 44-year-old woman.
The woman then lived in a Kent apartment and received care from Integrated Living Services. The Kent company, which at the time employed Thurura, contracts with the state to provide residential services to persons with profound or severe developmental disabilities.
Thurura faced a sentence of 6 1/2 years to 8 1/2 years under state guidelines.
"If I could sentence you to twice or three times the amount of time I would do so in a heartbeat," King County Superior Court Judge Richard McDermott said before he sentenced Thurura in a courtroom at the Norm Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent.
McDermott found Thurura guilty July 16 of second-degree rape. Thurura pleaded not guilty to the charge in July 2008 and said in court Friday that he was innocent.
According to charging papers, detectives used a DNA sample from Thurura to connect him with the woman, who had suffered a miscarriage. That unexpected event was what led enforcement authorities to begin the investigation in March 2008.
"I hope you sentence Mr. Thurura to as long of a term as the law allows," said Bessie Clark, the stepmother of the victim, in a statement she read to the judge. "I do not hate him, but I believe he must be removed from society so other vulnerable human beings can be safe from him."
McDermott reacted strongly after Thurura stated he was innocent of the rape.
"There was significant evidence in the police report beyond a reasonable doubt and scientific evidence that proves you are the person that impregnated the woman," McDermott said. "The DNA testing is a pretty precise indicator with a 99.99 percent chance you are the person that impregnated her. To my thinking, there is no doubt at all.
"It is difficult for me as a judge to conceive of a more heinous offense. You took advantage and violated one of the most vulnerable members of our society and did so when in a position of trust working as one of her caretakers. There is no excuse and no explanation for what you did."
Margaret Wangeera, of Lakewood, a friend of Thurura's mother who lives in London, England, told reporters outside the courtroom that she believes Thurura is innocent. Wangeera attended the sentencing along with a girlfriend of Thurura's and one of his aunts.
"I don't believe he's guilty," Wangeera said. "He only went to give her medication."
Wangeera said the DNA testing didn't convince her that Thurura was guilty because DNA can be easily transferred from one person to another, especially since he worked with the woman as a caregiver.
Kevin Dolan, a King County public defender, represented Thurura. Dolan declined to comment to a reporter after the sentencing. Dolan recommended to the judge that Thurura receive the low-end sentence of 6 1/2 years, but did not comment in court on why he thought the judge should issue a low-end sentence.
King County prosecutors said the woman is incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse because she is physically helpless and mentally incapacitated. The woman is legally blind and unable to speak. She has the cognitive level of an 11-month-old child.
The woman no longer lives in the apartment where the attacks occurred. She has found a new home.
Clark told the Kent Reporter last month that a settlement was reached with Integrated Living Services. The money has gone into a trust fund for the care of the woman.
An investigation last year by the Residential Care Services division of the State Department of Health and Social Services found that Integrated Living Services followed proper practices in the hiring and employment of Thurura.
Angela Kaake, the deputy prosecuting attorney, recommended the maximum sentence for Thurura.
"The defendant has shown a complete lack of remorse and a failure to take responsibility despite the DNA testing that showed he raped the victim," Kaake said to the judge. "He was acting as a caregiver who was supposed to protecting the victim and instead he perpetuated the crime."
Because Thurura committed a Class A felony, a state parole board will determine whether Thurura gets released after he serves his sentence, Kaake said during an interview outside of the courtroom. The board evaluates the offender's risk of reoffending and compliance with treatment programs in prison to determine whether to allow the release of the inmate.
Clark told the judge she hopes Thurura eventually grasps the type of crime he committed.
"I hope Mr. Thurura comes to understand the anomaly of what he has done and he knows it each day for the rest of his life," Clark said. "I hope and pray that no one else will ever suffer at his hands."Contact Kent Reporter Courts, government reporter Steve Hunter at email@example.com or 253-872-6600, ext. 5052.