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Lake Highland Rape Victims Bravely Face Attacker In Court

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Jennifer Lindgren
Jennifer joined CBS 11 News in September 2013. For her, the move ...
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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - The admitted Lake Highlands rapist is headed to prison for a long time. The man who struck fear – especially among women – in that Dallas community received his sentence late today.

Cesar Benitez will serve three, 85-year sentences, all at the same time. He is eligible for parole after 30 years in prison, as a part of his guilty plea deal.

The neighborhood terror may have ended when police arrested Benitez, but for the three women who survived his attacks, the nightmare lives on.

Each took the witness stand, describing the impact the experience had on her life. The women each used pseudonyms in court instead of their actual names.

“I’ve spent a year trying to move forward and put this past me. Now I have to relive the whole thing in front of the man who did it,” said Mary Kramer.

The women spoke not only of the crimes committed last spring – how Benitez broke into their homes in the dark and attacked – but they shared the ways their lives have forever changed.

“I’m only recently, after a year, able to stay by myself at night,” said Rachel Haecker.

“I don’t know how to not have panic attacks, and I don’t know how to not be terrified,” said Jane Kramer.

With the assistance of a translator, Benitez took the stand in his own defense. He told the courtroom he was sorry. He also blamed an addiction to steroids for fueling his aggressive behavior.

Benitez’s mother also took the stand asking for her son’s forgiveness.

After the testimony, Judge White admonished Benitez, calling his offenses reprehensible. The judge said he did not give credence to the steroid defense.

“The judge obviously saw there was pain and agony [in the women], and he sentenced [Benitez] accordingly,” said defense attorney John Key.

Dallas County Prosecutor Amy Derrick, who is felony chief and heads up the sexual assault unit, says the victims are happy with the sentence handed down Friday.

The plea deal spares the survivors the pain of enduring three drawn out jury trials.

“They knew they needed [to make statements] so they could get the results we got. I’ve never met three more impressive and brave women than the three we saw today,” said Amy Derrick.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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