Robbery suspect Christopher Fletcher was found guilty Tuesday evening on four felony counts in Liberty County Superior Court.
It took the jury just over one hour to reach the verdict on one count of aggravated assault, one count of aggravated sexually sodomy and one count of possession of a weapon during the commission of a felony. Fletcher also faced one count of armed robbery but the jury found him guilty of a lesser charge, robbery by intimidation.
Fletcher stood quietly as Liberty County Superior Court Judge Paul Rose sentenced him to what amounts to life plus 20 years in prison.
"I apologize for my actions," Fletcher told the judge after hearing his fate. "They were completely out of character. I apologize to the victim and her family."
The victim sat with her husband as the verdict and sentencing were read. Both cried with relief after learning the jury and judge's decision.
Earlier Tuesday morning, the woman took the stand to give her account of the crime, saying she feared she would be killed.
"He said he was going to choke me to death," the victim said, describing the threats she said Fletcher made against her.
She testified Fletcher came inside the Ok-Cha Beauty Supply store on more than one occasion March 13, 2007. She said he asked to use the phone the first time he came into the store, saying he was locked out of the house where he was staying on Becky Street.
The victim said Fletcher came back a second time, put her in a chokehold and held a knife to her. She said he constantly threatened to kill her if she did not do what he asked, which included a sexual act.
"I didn't want to do that," the victim testified. "It was disgusting, nasty. In my head I thought I'm going to be raped and killed."
Fletcher took the stand in his own defense and acknowledged he went to rob the store, saying he needed the money so he could get back to Texas. He said the woman offered the sexual favor.
In addition to the woman's testimony, assistant district attorney Jon Hope called to the stand Hinesville Police Dets. Susie Jackson and Tracey Howard, who presented evidence that included taped testimony from Fletcher and clothing he wore during the sexual assault.
On the tape, Fletcher said he initiated the sexual act, thinking it would keep his victim quiet because she would be too embarrassed to talk about the incident.
"I'm very satisfied with the verdict," Jackson said after the trial. "As far as it being a sexual crime over any other crime, a crime is a crime and it needs to be dealt with. But due to the fact that I had to deal with a victim and you see the emotional side, especially when you have to go to a trial, its worse. They have their right to be in court and try to prove their case but it's not fair that they get to victimize the victim again. They have been through all this one time and now they have to go through it a second time."
"The thing he stole was her freedom from fear," Hope said during closing arguments. "She divides her life now as before March 13 and after. He committed an unspeakable act of cruelty and horror and she had to relive it here today."