By Vivian Sade
COLUMBIA CITY — The last of a trio who terrorized, kidnapped and raped a woman in South Whitley was sentenced in Whitley Circuit Court Monday.
Dennis Thomas, 43, of Fort Wayne, was sentenced to 17 ½ years with 15 to be served and 2 ½ suspended for aiding in a kidnapping, a Level 2 felony.
Thomas was with Camara Benson, 21, and Henry Wright Jr., 25, both of Fort Wayne on Dec. 17 and was driving a black Dodge when the men pulled up behind the victim’s van at a railroad crossing in South Whitley. She had just gotten off work at approximately 5:30 p.m. and was waiting for a train to pass when she felt the Dodge hit her van from the rear.
Thomas had bumped into the woman’s van.
When she got out to check, Wright and Benson carjacked the victim, driving her to Columbia City, raping her, demanding her ATM card and PIN number and and using the ATM card to withdraw money at a Columbia City bank. Thomas followed in the Dodge.
The victim testified that the crimes had changed her life. She had to quit her job where she had worked for years, throwing her family into financial instability. She now suffers from panic attacks and struggles to function, she said.
“I find myself wondering who I am. Sitting in heavy traffic at a railroad crossing, I become very anxious,” she said.
Thomas also addressed the court.
“I truly apologize,” he said. “I am remorseful. I’ve shamed a lot of people.”
Judge James Heuer said that while Thomas had no direct contact with the victim, he was culpable.
“I can’t ignore the severe victim impact in this case,” Heuer said.
He cited three mitigators including Thomas’ remorse, his cooperation with law enforcement and the fact that he had accepted responsibility for his actions and one aggravator — severe victim impact.
(Ed. note: The Churubusco News does not identify victims of rape and sexual assault crimes.)