CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It took 34 years, but Charlotte's "ski mask rapist" finally admitted to raping three women in 1979.
Victims had not been able to identify the suspect because he was wearing a ski mask and the crimes had gone unsolved until 2012, when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's cold case rape unit used DNA to tie Jerry Brooks, 63, to the attacks.
They arrested Brooks in June 2012 near Surfside Beach, S.C.
Brooks was scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday for raping three women during a rape spree that terrified the city, but his attorney approached prosecutors and told them Brooks was ready to plead guilty.
Police and prosecutors quickly contacted the victims before agreeing to a plea deal on Thursday that would have Brooks sentenced to life in prison for the attacks.
For the victims, the opportunity to avoid a trial was huge.
"They've already lived a very traumatic experience that happened years and years ago, and just by bringing it up years later is traumatic," said Jeff Davis, who supervises the unit that prosecutes rape cases.
Davis said one of Brooks' victims was in the courtroom and thanked prosecutors and police after the hearing, saying that for the first time in 34 years, she would not have to look over her shoulder, worrying that her attacker may be behind her.
Brooks did not say anything at the hearing.
Because he committed the crimes in 1979, Brooks was sentenced under an old North Carolina law that allows him to be eligible for parole in 10 years.
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