SNOW HILL – A Berlin man faces life in prison this week after a Worcester County Circuit Court jury found him guilty of first-degree rape, first-degree assault and other charges for a year-long pattern of sexual assaults and abuse on his girlfriend and mother of his child.
Preston Lewis Whaley, Jr., 43, of Berlin, was in Worcester County Circuit Court on Tuesday facing a slew of felony charges including first-degree rape and assault, for an incident dating back to August, which was just the latest in long and sordid pattern of physical abuse on the victim. After hours of testimony, a jury retired to deliberate around 4:45 p.m. on Tuesday and returned about 45 minutes later with guilty verdicts across the board.
Whaley’s fate remains uncertain pending the outcome of a pre-sentence investigation. The first-degree rape conviction carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, while the first-degree assault charge carries a 25-year maximum sentence and the second-degree assault charge carries a 10-year maximum sentence. Because each of the convictions fall under the state’s violent crime statute, it must be announced in open court the minimum time Whaley will serve without eligibility for parole.
On Aug. 2, Worcester County Bureau of Investigation (WCBI) detectives responded to PRMC in reference to a reported rape of a 40-year-old victim. Through the course of the investigation, Whaley, who has a long history of abuse and protective orders with the victim, was identified as the suspect.
Whaley was subsequently arrested at around 11 p.m. that night in Berlin and charged with first-degree rape, first- and second-degree assault and the violation of a protective order to stay away from the victim. A closer look at the history between the victim and her alleged attacker reveals a pattern of abuse dating back over a year which culminated in his conviction on malicious destruction of property charges, but no jail time, just over two weeks before the alleged rape on Aug. 2.
Whaley was arrested previously on May 5 and charged with second-degree assault, malicious destruction of property and theft after repeated, long-term abuse of the victim. According to the victim’s statement in the court file, the pattern of verbal and physical abuse started in March 2006 when he pushed her to the ground while she was pregnant. During the first month of her pregnancy, the victim said in her statement Whaley “struck her in the face countless times and grabbed her arms causing bruises.”
The victim was not around Whaley for the rest of her pregnancy, but returned home in July 2006 and the abuse started again, according to court documents. Even after the victim returned with the couple’s newborn son, whom a paternity test confirmed belonged to Whaley, the abuse continued and even escalated to a degree, according to the victim’s statement. “He hit me at least three times while I was holding our infant son,” it reads.
On May 5 of this year, the situation boiled to a head when Whaley allegedly broke into the victim’s home, took money, broke her cell phone and broke a vase. He was arrested and charged with second-degree assault, malicious destruction of property and theft.
On July 17, just 16 days before the rape reported on Aug. 2, Whaley plead guilty in District Court in Snow Hill to malicious destruction of property and was sentenced to 60 days in jail with all but 20 days suspended. Whaley was then given credit for the 40 days he had already served in jail while awaiting trial, resulting in no new jail time.
“On countless occasions, he [Whaley] has broken through my door and thrown objects at me, injuring me, as well as grabbing, punching, kicking me down the steps and choking me,” the victim’s statement reads.