S.D. Officer Is Given 56 Years in Beach Attacks : Crime: Henry Hubbard Jr. asks for forgiveness, says he is just beginning to understand his illness.
One of the most chilling episodes in the city’s history ended Monday when former San Diego Police Officer Henry Hubbard Jr. was sentenced to 56 years in prison for a series of rapes and robberies that terrorized young beachcombers last summer from La Jolla to Solana Beach.
The 30-year-old man, who before sentencing asked the forgiveness of the court, his victims and their families, said he still did not fully understand after extensive therapy just how ill he had become.
“I am only now beginning to understand the complexity of flaws in my personality that led up to the horrendous acts last summer,” he said in a shrill voice interrupted once by his tears. “I have no excuses to give you, as the acts are unexcusable.”
Six of Hubbard’s victims, including one he shot and one he raped, were among the spectators who packed the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Herbert J. Exarhos. Arthur Gracia, shot by Hubbard hours before the officer’s arrest, urged Exarhos to let Hubbard “rot in prison.” The rape victim sobbed silently from the front row and did not address the court.
For the first time, Hubbard spoke directly to his victims, turning slightly to face them before returning to his prepared notes.
“To the victims, I am very sorry for the horror, emotional and physical suffering that I brought into your life and the lives of those who know you and care for you,” he said. “I realize that you may never be able to forgive me, but I hope and pray that each and every one of you will fully recover from the pain and anguish that I brought into your lives.”
For each of eight violent sexual assaults, Hubbard was given six years, or 48 total. He received eight years more for one of the two murder attempts that led to his arrest. The time for all other crimes of his 38-count indictment are to be served concurrently.
With 360 days already served and 180 days credit for good behavior, Hubbard will serve at least another 27 1/2 years in state prison.
Giving Hubbard three years more than the minimum sentence, Exarhos said Hubbard’s agreement last month to plead guilty showed a “willingness to spare his victims” from testifying at trial.
Kerry Steigerwalt, Hubbard’s attorney, said he was “pleasantly surprised by the sentence, although 56 years is an awfully long time.”
Prosecutor Stephen Anear, who called Hubbard a “clever and dangerous predator” who coolly and rationally sought out his victims, said the sentence was fair.
“Mr. Hubbard has made his bed,” he said. “Now he has to lie in it.”
A Del Mar psychologist portrayed Hubbard as the product of a dysfunctional family in which his father, a respected educator in Lancaster, S. C., drank too much on weekends and beat Hubbard’s mother. Often, Hubbard’s father openly demanded sex of his wife, the psychologist testified before the sentencing Monday.
Unable to hate his father but humiliated by the experiences and determined to be different, Hubbard withdrew into the shell of a gentle, passive young man who numbed himself from his internal pain by excelling in sports and school, the psychologist said. His father, meanwhile, repeatedly called him a sissy and urged him to be more aggressive.
The rapes grew out of this anger, said clinical psychologist Richard Levak, who interviewed Hubbard in sessions that lasted a total of about 10 hours. Hubbard’s penchant for raping women within earshot of their bound male companions was a way of subconsciously striking back at his father and expressing anger at his mother for never escaping from the torment, Levak said.
“In this scene of a man and a woman over which he has power, he is saying: ‘I’m getting what I deserve. You see what it’s like,’ ” he said. “It was an angry kind of event that involved getting something that Henry had never been able to suppress. He had been able to numb all his feelings, but not his deep feeling for love and affection.”
So out of touch was Hubbard with what he had done that “he actually thought there was some intimacy between him and the women,” Levak said.
Hubbard’s sentence came five days shy of the anniversary of his arrest, which Police Chief Bob Burgreen called the department’s “worst nightmare come true.”
The two-month series of seven rapes, plus attempted rapes, robberies and attempted robberies, occurred between June 15 and Aug. 15, 1991. Prosecutors later added to the list an eighth rape that occurred in September, 1990.
In most of the cases, Hubbard searched for couples along the beach, then forced the woman to bind the man’s hands with masking tape before he raped the woman.
The series of crimes ended the morning of Aug. 15 at Torrey Pines State Beach after Hubbard, masked and sitting in a lifeguard stand, calmly approached a 21-year-old woman emerging from the ocean. She screamed, drawing her two male companions out of the water. At gunpoint, the attacker made one of the men tie the hands of the other and the woman tie the other man’s hands. The men rushed the attacker, and he shot both of them and fled. They have since recovered.
Shortly after the shootings, Hubbard checked into UC San Diego Medical Center with a gunshot wound. His clothing was full of sand. Spent casings recovered from the scene matched those of the make of gun registered to Hubbard. Perhaps the most damning evidence of all was soon revealed: Hubbard’s police-issue flashlight had been left behind.
Attorneys representing the former officer suggested he had been framed by department colleagues who nurtured a grudge over his testimony at a federal trial.
The defense said the officers had sent a group of men to attack Hubbard after his car broke down at a freeway intersection, and that they must have planted his flashlight in the car of one of the victims.
A parade of Hubbard backers, both locally and from South Carolina, gave him their strongest support. His father and mother said it was simply impossible that their son could be involved, and they suggested that he had had a normal childhood.
Hubbard’s wife, Karen, cried in front of reporters as she defended her husband, to whom she has been married eight years. The couple have a 2-year-old daughter. Karen Hubbard did not show up for his sentencing, but her sister represented the family.
Court testimony Monday showed that Karen and Henry Hubbard had deep marital problems, underscored by Henry’s deep jealousy of his wife, who he suspected was having an affair.
Other friends and family members said that, because Hubbard was an exemplary police officer, a gifted athlete who became a professional baseball player and a model for children back in Lancaster, they could not conceive of his being connected to rapes and robberies.
But, in the months after his arrest, the evidence against him began to mount. Blood samples taken at the scene of the shooting matched Hubbard’s blood. Seven of 14 victims picked him out of a live lineup of six men with no hesitation, and five others tentatively identified him as their attacker. Hubbard was indicted by a special grand jury in November.
Earlier this year, DNA evidence linked Hubbard to all seven rapes. Law enforcement officials said the probability that someone other than Hubbard had raped the women ranged from 1 in 340,000 to 1 in 7.7 billion. Defense attorney Steigerwalt tried to argue that the DNA evidence should not be admissible at trial.
Days before the matter was to be heard in Superior Court, Hubbard pleaded guilty or no contest to all 38 felony charges against him.
The case of Hubbard was all the more frightening because of the way it unfolded. Last summer, San Diego police began issuing public warnings about a robber-rapist preying on beach-goers. The suspect was said to be wearing a dark ski mask and dark clothing during the early-morning attacks.
Within the Northern Patrol station, which is responsible for guarding the city’s beaches, officers were growing furious over the continuing assaults. And, when two teen-age girls--ages 13 and 14--were raped at Windansea Beach in La Jolla in July, 1991, officers vowed to step up the effort to catch whoever was responsible.
But investigators were stymied at every turn. The rapist never struck during the evenings when undercover San Diego police waited on the periphery of the beach or when San Diego County sheriff’s deputies used decoy officers to walk along the sand posing as loving couples.
At briefings in Northern Patrol, officers were told of the operations, lest they run into undercover police. Hubbard sat among them, taking in the details. After one meeting in July, in which the suspect was described as tall, thin and black, a sergeant turned to Hubbard and smiled.
“Sounds like you, Henry,” he said.
Hubbard, normally easygoing and jovial, glowered at the sergeant and turned away with fists clenched.
A sheriff’s investigator had other clues: The attacker used the voice of a police officer, firm and controlling; he stood with his feet slightly apart and out of reach of his victims, as an officer would, and he took extreme pains not to leave fingerprints, making sure his victims tied each other up.
After Hubbard’s arrest, the clues became more obvious. The attacks always occurred after 1 a.m., just after Hubbard left work, and the officer never joined his colleagues for a beer afterward.
Psychologist Levak said Hubbard became a police officer for “love and acceptance” he had never attained. Somewhere in his psychological profile, investigators overlooked a test score that revealed that Hubbard was extremely paranoid.
“That little red flag was there,” Levak said. “But it’s easily missed. Had he been interviewed deeply about his jealously and feeling of paranoia, he may have spilled the beans, and this terrible tragedy may have been avoided.”
PARANOID AND ANGRY: Psychologist says Hubbard will never have a normal personality. B1
APOLOGIES OFFERED: Text of Hubbard’s statement to the court. B4