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September trial set in '82 slaying Convicted rapist pleads not guilty
Convicted rapist pleads not guilty in 1982 slaying of Culpeper woman. Judge sets trial for Sept. 17

 Kenneth M. Tinsley
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Date published: 1/25/2007

An ailing state prison inmate pleaded not guilty yesterday to the 1982 rape and murder of 19-year-old Rebecca Lynn Williams, a crime that sent another man to death row for nine years.

Kenneth Maurice Tinsley, who has been suffering from serious heart problems for more than a year, sat in a wheelchair while one of his two court-appointed defense attorneys entered the plea in Culpeper County Circuit Court.

The 61-year-old defendant, who is currently serving two life sentences in Sussex II state prison for a 1984 rape in Albemarle County, said almost nothing during the 20-minute proceeding.

He is charged with capital murder, rape and forcible sodomy in the Williams case.

Earl Washington Jr. was originally convicted of Williams' murder and spent 18 years in prison--nine on death row--before he was cleared by DNA tests. He received a full pardon in 2000.

A grand jury indicted Tinsley in August of last year.

Tinsley, who suffered a heart attack just prior to a scheduled court appearance last fall, seemed much more alert than during two previous hearings. He even smiled when conversing with defense attorney Joe Flood.

In a move that substitute Judge Frank Hoss called unusual, Flood interrupted clerk Virginia Coppage and waived the reading of the charges against his client. When asked if he understood the seriousness of those charges, Tinsley nodded that he did.

Upon agreement by both sides, Hoss also set aside two weeks for Tinsley's jury trial, which is scheduled to begin Sept. 17.

Special Prosecutor Richard Moore told the judge he preferred to try the case in late July or August, but Tinsley's attorneys would not be available then.

Defense-motion hearings in the case were scheduled for March 30 and May 9.

About midmorning on June 2, 1982, Williams stumbled out of her front door calling for help. The mother of three had been raped and stabbed 38 times in the presence of her two youngest children--ages 9 months and 2 years,

Before she died about two hours later, Williams described her attacker as a bearded black man. The assailant had reportedly fled on foot toward U.S. 29, which runs just behind the apartment near what was then the Holiday Inn,

Washington, who is mildly retarded, became a suspect about a year later after he was arrested on charges that he beat an elderly Fauquier County woman with a chair and attempted to rape her.

Washington confessed to the rape and murder of Williams, but then recanted. His lawyers later argued that the confession was based on information supplied to him by investigators.

Following Washington's exoneration and pardon, DNA found on a blue blanket at the crime scene led to charges against the imprisoned Tinsley.

To reach DONNIE JOHNSTON:
Email: djohnston@freelancestar.com


The case in brief

The crime: Rebecca Lynn Williams, 19, of Culpeper raped and stabbed to death June 2, 1982.

The defendant: Kenneth Maurice Tinsley, 61, serving two life sentences for 1984 rape in Albemarle. He pleaded not guilty yesterday.

The twist: Earl Washington Jr. originally convicted and spent 18 years in prison--nine on death row--before DNA tests cleared him. DNA later led to charges against Tinsley.

What's next: Trial set for Sept. 17. Motions hearings March 30 and May 9.