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Victim of 1981 rape shares her story

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Court papers detail the terrifying rape, and the moments that followed. Court papers detail the terrifying rape, and the moments that followed.
Investigators discovered Charles O'Howell was a DNA match. Investigators discovered Charles O'Howell was a DNA match.
CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) -

Three decades after he tied her up and raped her, a victim finds peace knowing her attacker will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Charles O'Howell, already serving 55 years for another rape, learned Tuesday he'd spend another 25 years locked up.

Tuesday he pleaded guilty to forcing his way into a Cape Girardeau woman's home in 1981 and raping her.

Linda Propst Dedert says she lived in fear for decades. Fear that her attacker would return and kill her.

That is until she learned in 2011 that DNA taken 30 years earlier had linked O'Howell to the crime. And unbelievably to her, he'd spent most of those years locked up.

Wednesday, she shared the terror that she felt when he forced his way into her home, and the relief of knowing he can't hurt her, or anyone else ever again.

"It was like looking over an endless pit, and that's when I thought this is it," said Dedert. "I thought I was gonna die."

She was living alone on Main Street in Cape Girardeau.

"Of all the places for it to happen in your hometown, a small town," said Dedert.

It happened in November of 1981.

"Somebody knocked at my door and it was a young man who said he had car trouble and wanted to use the phone," Dedert said.

Dedert remembers the man, who had a boyish teenage face. She asked for a phone number and told him to wait. But when she turned, her visitor made his move.

"He yanked the door open and busted in," said Dedert. "And grabbed me by the front of my shirt and stuck a knife in my throat."

Court papers detail the terrifying rape, and the moments that followed.

"You couldn't fight, there was nobody around for help," said Dedert. "He had a knife, I had nothing."

Dedert was tied up with a vacuum cleaner cord. And, before the young man left he told her if she should ever tell anyone about him, that he would kill her. She believed him.

"I had no reason not to," Dedert said.

However, She had no plans to stay silent. 

"It wasn't hard, only for a second did I wish it had never happened and then I knew I had to tell police," said Dedert. "There was no other thought in my mind that I had to do this."

It took almost 30 years, but finally Dedert learned investigators found a match to DNA evidence taken right after the crime.

It was all thanks to a tracking law that requires anyone arrested for a felony or misdemeanor sex offense to be put into a statewide system.

Investigators discovered Charles O'Howell was a DNA match.

"He had been in prison almost the whole time, which was wonderful, but I didn't know that," said Dedert.

O'Howell was already serving time for the kidnapping and rape of a 15-year-old in 1982.

On Tuesday, O'Howell pleaded guilty to assaulting Dedert and a judge sentenced him to another 25 years.

"Hopefully he will never walk the streets again," Dedert said.

Dedert says she's sharing her story to give other victims hope.

"Try to get the courage to get help because otherwise the rapist has won," adds Dedert.

Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle says that DNA data base helped connect another suspect to a 1980 rape. Investigators made the match on that pending case just last week.

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