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Exactly 31 years after attack, Florida rapist sentenced to life in prison

The victim was beaten so severely that she had to crawl to the phone and dial 911 by feel.
A Miami-Dade judge on Friday sentenced Robert McCartney, 54, to life in prison after a jury needed just a half-hour to convict him of a rape charge.
A Miami-Dade judge on Friday sentenced Robert McCartney, 54, to life in prison after a jury needed just a half-hour to convict him of a rape charge. [ Miami Dade County Corrections and Rehabilitation ]
Published Aug. 13

MIAMI — The intruder broke into her apartment in West Kendall. He raped her and beat her so savagely that her eyes swelled shut and she had to dial 9-1-1 blindly. The savage attack left her with a broken nose, a broken jaw, a dent on her skull above her eye and severe bruises. She still suffers from debilitating headaches.

“The fear I feel is real,” she said. “The anxiety I feel is real. Despite all this, I am a survivor.”

But justice didn’t come quickly. It took exactly 31 years for the woman, now 71, to see her rapist finally sentenced to prison. A Miami-Dade judge on Friday sentenced Robert McCartney, 54, to life in prison.

The sentence was handed down on the anniversary of the Aug. 12, 1991, attack.

“I’ve been in the boxing world. I’ve been to two wars. And I think this is the most savage, brutal rape that I’ve encountered,” said Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Alberto Milian.

Said the victim: “I may have closure in the knowledge that he cannot harm another, but I still live with the memories of that horrific night. And I will for the rest of my life.”

DNA CRACKS THE COLD CASE

The attack happened as the woman was sleeping inside her West Kendall apartment. She was awakened by an intruder “straddling her body and punching her in the face,” according to a Miami-Dade police arrest warrant. Knocked unconscious, she later woke up, crawled to the phone and dialed 9-1-1 by feel.

A swab was taken in 1991 at the Rape Treatment Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, but DNA evidence was still in its infancy. The case languished for decades until 2007, when a federal grant helped establish a cold-case squad for Miami-Dade’s sexual battery unit. But the DNA profile developed from the sample was only a partial one and didn’t match any offenders in a national law enforcement database of genetic profiles.

Finally in 2019, a match came back to a sample taken from McCartney, who’d been convicted for a 1997 case of grand-theft auto and third-degree murder. He spent 10 years behind bars for those convictions, plus two others: using forged documents and burglary of a dwelling while residents were home.

LIFE, DECADES LATER

McCartney, then living in Lawrenceville, Georgia, northeast of Atlanta, was arrested in 2019. He was not tried until June. Jurors took just about a half-an-hour to convict him on a charge of sexual battery causing serious bodily injury.

Miami-Dade prosecutors Jessie Friedman and Natalie Snyder asked for a life sentence, arguing his escalation of crimes — at the time of the attack, he was on probation for aggravated assault — made him a threat to society.

McCartney’s lawyers, Joseph Rosenbaum and Kimberly Acevedo, argued for a sentence of 15 years in prison. They said McCartney had recently become a grandfather and supported his elderly, sick mother.

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Milian was unconvinced.

“You became a predator and entered somebody’s home and dwelling, administering to her a life sentence,” Milian said. “I think you are a sexual predator. And therefore, I believe a life sentence is appropriate in this case.”

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