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With a rapist sentenced to life, his nemesis’ task is complete

He is not a cop. Nor is he a prosecutor. But for more than two decades, Skip Marshall has made sure that rapist Larry Graves never got away with his crimes.

In 1991, the lawyer saw Graves attacking a woman at a Fullerton park-and-ride and chased the knife-wielding assailant, helping to hold him until police arrived.

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Years later, Marshall helped stop attempts to grant Graves an early release by giving testimony against him at parole hearings.

And on Wednesday, Marshall watched as a Compton judge sentenced Graves, 38, to life in prison for two more rapes following a trial in which Marshall once again played a role by testifying for the prosecution.

“This thing has been with me for 22 years,” Marshall, 60, said. “It’s the final chapter for me.”

Marshall was searching for a parking spot when he first encountered Graves on March 22, 1991. The government contract lawyer saw a woman lying on the ground between two cars with someone hovering over her.

Marshall hurriedly told a bus driver to call authorities and drove back to the park-and-ride lot, where he grabbed a baseball bat from his trunk and confronted the attacker. Graves, who was 15, held a butcher knife to the woman’s throat.

The victim had been sexually assaulted. Her nose was broken and her jaw dislocated. Marshall pretended to leave and shouted to Graves that police were on their way. The teenager ran.

Graves was no match for Marshall, who, though 23 years older, kept a 7-minute-mile pace during 10k races and was a black-belt in karate. “He wasn’t expecting to be running with an old man right on his heels,” Marshall recalled.

Wearing a suit and wing-tip shoes, the then-38-year-old followed the teenager over a chain-link fence and through an apartment complex. Together with three other men who had joined the pursuit, Marshall caught Graves, who gave up without a fight. He admitted committing sexual assault and was sent to the California Youth Authority.

Sometime in the mid-1990s, Marshall received a letter saying Graves had an upcoming parole hearing. In custody, Graves was being trained as a chef, allowed to use knives, Marshall said. “I nearly fell out of my chair,” he said.

Marshall drove to the Inland Empire and testified against Graves. The victim also appeared but was too distraught to talk to Marshall, he said. Graves’ parole was denied.

Marshall returned a few years later to testify again, helping keep Graves behind bars until his ultimate release in 2000.

Over the years, Marshall switched jobs, first joining the Los Angeles County district attorney’s child support unit and then the public defender’s office, where he works today. He periodically kept track of Graves, speaking with his parole officer and checking court records.

Graves was soon convicted of failing to properly register as a sex offender, according to court records. But then the crimes appeared to stop. Marshall grew optimistic that he would stay out of trouble.

Last year, however, two women independently told police similar stories about being picked up by a man in South Los Angeles who said he wanted to pay for oral sex but then held a knife to their throats and raped them. DNA evidence collected from both women matched Graves’.

At Graves’ trial this year, the prosecution called Marshall and the 1991 victim to show jurors that Graves had a history of violent sexual assault. Marshall said he felt his heartbeat quicken when he took the stand. He was asked if he recognized anyone in court.

Graves unexpectedly raised his hand.

“It looks like him,” Marshall said in court, though he couldn’t be sure.

Jurors convicted Graves of two counts of rape and one count of failing to register as a sex offender.

Deputy Dist. Atty. Troy Davis said Marshall played an invaluable role in bringing Graves to justice. Marshall, he said, gave strong testimony at the recent trial, and his bravery in 1991 was key to ensuring that Graves’ DNA was in the statewide offenders database, which was used to match the genetic material taken from the latest victims.

“It can all be attributed to Skip stopping him in ’91,” Davis said.

None of the victims attended Wednesday’s hearing, but Davis read a statement from the woman attacked in 1991, saying she suffers from sinus headaches attributed to the brutal assault and remains afraid to go out alone.

“Had four brave men not intervened and chased and arrested my attacker, I know I would have been killed,” her statement said.

Graves showed no emotion as Superior Court Judge Eleanor J. Hunter sentenced him to 53 years to life in prison.

Marshall said he felt the need to appear at the sentencing to show support for the 1991 victim, but said he also felt sadness at how Graves had squandered his chance at freedom.

“There’s no more opportunity to hope that he’s going to make a successful life outside of prison,” he said.

jack.leonard@latimes.com


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