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Originally published Friday, April 19, 2013 at 8:18 PM

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U District attacker sentenced to life in prison

A man who broke into a University District house last year and threatened six young women with a knife just two months after he was released from prison was sentenced to life behind bars without the possibility of parole.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A man who broke into a University District house last year and threatened six young women with a knife just two months after he was released from prison on a rape conviction was sentenced Friday to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Robert Douglas Hitt, 34, was convicted last month by a King County jury on nine felony charges, including six counts of first-degree kidnapping, two counts of first-degree robbery and one count of first-degree burglary for the March 11, 2012, attack.

Because two of the charges in the home invasion carried sexual-motivation allegations, Hitt faced an automatic mandatory life sentence under Washington’s “two strikes” law for repeat sex offenders.

During the sentencing before Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Ramsdell, it was revealed that Hitt had tried to commit suicide early Friday morning by cutting his arms with a razor in the King County Jail. Despite an objection from his attorneys, the judge ordered that he remain shackled during the hearing. He did not speak on his own behalf.

Four of the victims were in the courtroom with family members and other supporters, but only one spoke at the hearing.

The victim said that while she was proud of the way she and her roommates had handled the attack, Hitt had destroyed her sense of security and her feeling that her former home was a “a place of refuge.”

She said that she no longer remembers the good times she had with her roommates when she passes the home. Instead, she said, she is “overwhelmed with a sense of fear and insecurity.”

According to police, Hitt broke into the home in the 5000 block of 20th Avenue Northeast, rounded up six of the eight University of Washington students who lived there, forced them into an upstairs bedroom and ordered them to lie face down in a row.

He then bound the wrists of the first three women with electrical tape and tried to force one of the victims to undress, court records say.

One of the women grabbed the knife he left within her reach, hid it under her body and passed it to another roommate while the two remaining roommates, who had hidden in their bedrooms, were able to call police.

Hitt, a Level II sex offender, had spent 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to a 2001 first-degree rape when he was released two months before the home invasion. He was under lifelong supervision by the state Department of Corrections at the time of the attack.

One of his defense attorneys, Anita Paulsen, said Hitt had completed sex-offender treatment and had been doing well when he was receiving regular mental-health medication in prison.

After his release, however, he was unable to find a place to live, couldn’t find a job and was unable to access consistent, effective mental-health care, she said.

He “fell into a path of hopelessness and despair” that caused him to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs.

“This is not an excuse, but we must, we must do a better job taking care of people out of prison,” Paulsen said.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or ccclarridge@seattletimes.com.

Information from Seattle Times archives is included in this report.

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