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Recap: How an open-and-shut case became an extraordinary mystery story
June 5, 1981
Seattle Times staff reporter
Here is a brief overview of the case of Steven Gary Titus.
At 7:22 p.m., on Sunday, October 12, 1980, Port of Seattle Police received a report of a rape on a secluded road just south of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
The victim told police that the culprit had blond or light-brown shoulder-length hair and a beard and mustache. She said he had picked her up while she was hitchhiking, then driven her, at knife-point, to the rape scene. The man was driving a late-model car, possibly a compact. The victim remembered two other bits of information: The car had a temporary license tag pasted in the rear window; and it had "velvet" or velour seats.
Several hours later, Port of Seattle Police Det. Ronald A. Parker and his partner began cruising the night spots along the airport strip, looking for a suspect car. They found the blue Chevette belonging to Steve Titus. There was a temporary tag affixed to the back window.
Titus was arrested later and brought to trial before Superior Court Judge Charles V. Johnson in February, 1981. The case offered these sometimes-contradictory facts:
The victim identified Titus in court.
A friend testified that he and Titus were at the Titus apartment when the rape took place. (He later took a lie-detector test and passed.) Titus also introduced a phone bill, showing that he had made a long-distance call from his home at 7 p.m. This time was important, because the victim had told police that she was picked up by the rapist at 6:45, thus making it virtually impossible to drive to the rape scene, commit the crime and drive to the Titus apartment within that time-frame.
At the trial, however, the victim moved the time she was picked up by the rapist back to 6:30 p.m.
One other key item of evidence was suddenly changed: a police photograph of tire tracks said to be from the rapist's car at the muddy rape scene. The tracks, however, did not match the tires on Titus' car. In court, Detective Parker said that a last-minute trip to the rape scene with the victim convinced him that the tracks were not correct. The victim told him, he said, that the rapist's car had driven straight in and out of the lane; Parker said the tracks photographed turned to the right.
No other police officers at the scene noted the turn or any other fresh tracks. The police photographed showed straight tracks.
After hearing all of this, the jurors pondered. After 12 hours of deliberation, they voted to convict.
Since then, Titus has carried on a battle to clear his name. The Times has run two stories, detailing his efforts and the results of an independent investigation by a Times newsman.
Titus is due back in court on Monday to be sentenced. He faces a term of 3 years to life.
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