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Man gets 8 years in sexual assault
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Man gets 8 years in sexual assault

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The 19-year-old from New York paused in her Appalachian Trail hike to mail herself a package that she could pick up after she'd hiked farther north.

A Vinton man saw her walking along U.S. 11 toward the Troutville Post Office and offered her a ride in his sedan.

But he took her instead to the office of the Botetourt County trucking company where he worked, and he sexually assaulted her.

Yesterday in Botetourt County Circuit Court, 39-year-old Joel Fulton Carter III pleaded no contest to object sexual penetration in the April assault. In accordance with the plea agreement, Judge Malfourd "Bo" Trumbo sentenced him to serve eight years of a 30-year prison sentence.

Botetourt County Commonwealth's Attorney Joel Branscom said the plea agreement fit the victim's wishes. She has returned to college and would prefer not to come back to Virginia to testify, the prosecutor said. As part of the agreement, Branscom dropped charges of abduction and attempted rape.

Carter's attorney, Brad Braford, said his client did not want to put the woman through the trauma of a trial, either. With his plea, Carter does not admit guilt but concedes prosecutors have enough evidence to convict him, Braford said.

Branscom said the Botetourt County Sheriff's Office learned of the attack on April 27, when the woman's brother called to report that his sister had been assaulted. The woman had called him but not police.

Investigators went out on the trail searching for her. One hiker told them they had seen a woman fitting her description sitting beside the trail crying. Based on that tip, they caught up to her.

She told them she had lost track of time and didn't realize it was Sunday and the post office was closed.

As she walked along U.S. 11, a man pulled up and offered her a ride. He helped her assemble her package to be mailed. Then he instead took her to his workplace, where he attacked her.

The woman said that Carter forced her clothes off, groped her and attempted to have sex with her. Then he apologized and offered to drive her back and drop her off. Once he did, she called her brother.

After investigators located the business she described, they narrowed the suspects down to Carter. They went to his house on the pretext of looking for the package she intended to mail -- which was still in the back seat of his sedan.

Two years ago, Carter was acquitted of charges of abduction, rape and forcible sodomy in a Roanoke County case that bore similarities to the Botetourt incident.

A 21-year-old woman was walking home after midnight Nov. 10, 2005, when Carter pulled up in his van and offered her a ride.

She testified at the June 2006 trial that after she got in the van, he forced her in the back and sexually assaulted her. He told the jury that they had consensual sex. The jury found him not guilty.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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