Man Sentenced for Sexually Assaulting Woman in 1984

Published on October 24, 2017

Inocencio Trevino

GREELEY, Colo. (Weld County D.A.) – On July 31, 1984, Cheri Webster was walking home after a late-night shift at a Greeley restaurant when two men ran behind her, pushed her into an alley and took turns sexually assaulting her.

When they were finished, they left the then 20-year-old on the concrete, alone, as she was forced to pick herself up and call police. For more than 33 years, the two men got away it, while Cheri lived with the trauma and stress she endured because of the attack. 

But thanks to modern advances in DNA technology, both men were eventually caught and will now collectively serve four decades for their crimes.

On Tuesday, one of the men, Inocencio Trevino, 50, was sentenced to 16 years after pleading guilty to 2nd-degree kidnapping. The other co-defendant, Rusty Barnhart, 57, is currently serving a 24-year sentence for the same charge after a jury found him guilty in May. Prosecutors weren’t able to charge the men with sexual assault due to the statute of limitations, which extended only three years at the time.

Webster, who is publishing her name in hopes of helping other victims of sexual assault, said she no longer considers herself a victim. “I am a survivor,” she said during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. “I can never be ‘unraped,’ but I can walk out of here today free from the trauma that affected me for most of my life.”

Despite the initial investigation by the Greeley Police Department, the case eventually went cold due to lack of evidence. In 2013, however, Colorado legislators funded and passed a law requiring police to test all unsolved rape kits. Webster’s kit was tested and ultimately had two matches: Trevino and Barnhart.

“After all this time, Ms. Webster deserves justice,” said Deputy District Attorney Tammy Love. “The maximum sentence will ensure that justice delayed is not justice denied.”

This case, and others like it, raises questions about the statute of limitations and whether it should exist in instances of sexual assault. This year, the legislature upped the limitations from 10 to 20 years, but even in Webster’s case, it still would have been too late, despite the decades-long suffering she has survived.

“Ms. Webster will never get a break from her suffering,” said Weld County District Attorney Michael Rourke. “Why should the men who assaulted her? They decided that night to violate her in the most heinous way. That decision should follow them for the rest of their lives.”

Cheri, now 54, says she continues to work on her healing process. Following the assault, she became addicted to drugs and alcohol. She emotionally removed herself from her children and family. She even, at times, blamed herself for walking home late that night, that the assault was her fault for being careless. “I’m very, very grateful that I have been able to let go of those things,” she said.

She now advocates for other women who have been sexually assaulted. She helps them overcome the post-traumatic triggers that are often associated with sexual assaults and lends them a voice. It’s how she helps herself.

“We, speaking for myself and other women who have been sexually assaulted, must stop blaming ourselves,” Webster said. “We must stop telling our daughters what they’re doing wrong and start telling our sons to stop raping women. Women are not their ‘play things.’”

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