Last of three parts
By ALFRED LUBRANO / Inquirer Staff Writer

During visiting time at the State Correctional Institution at Waymart, the wives and mothers who have been allowed into the prison nimbly feed money into vending machines that line a wall.

The women quickly amass meals of fat and calories to present to their men during their four hours together. Along with their freedom, the inmates also have lost the privilege of handling legal tender.

Prisoners eat sitting side by side with women and children on hard, fixed chairs. They all face forward, where a corrections officer sits like a teacher presiding over an endless detention.

William Gray lives here, among the men packed together with their memories, their excuses, and their court appeals.

Recent prison photograph of William Gray.

It's a brick fortress on a hill in a rural section of northeastern Pennsylvania, with the grim, antiquated look of a Civil War military installation.

Gray's 34 years in prison have cooled his anger, he said. He has been in therapy for decades.

Gray still looks younger than his age; his hair has remained brown into his seventh decade. His eyes are still a sharp blue, and he looks taut and slender in his brown prison jumpsuit.

Gray said he was born again after God spoke to him on May 2, 1983, quelling a suicidal urge to throw himself off the fourth-floor tier of a prison in Pittsburgh.

Once considered a danger to himself, Gray had been in a now defunct institution for the criminally insane for three years. He was declared competent, then moved into the state prison system.

The day he was transferred, seven men on the bus who had heard of his crimes snarled that they would rape him in the toilet.

When Gray talks, it's psychology-speak leavened with Scripture. "I was a monster, but I'm not one today.

"I've learned empathy because I've been raped because of my crimes."

Gray: "I was a monster, but I'm not one today."

He will not speak of the assault.

His favorite Bible verse is "Lord, save me!" for its simplicity and abject supplication to God.

Gray earned his GED inside, and he now makes shirts for the corrections officers. He has learned to excel at chess, and he became an ordained minister through the mail in the Universal Life Church of California.

"It's no good for me to think about the attacks I did," he said in a quiet, barely there voice. "I realize what an animal I was, and I get depressed."

Gray believes God has a plan for him. "But I don't think I will be let out until I serve the full 50 years" of his 20- to 50-year sentence.

The nine previous parole denials, he said, suggest it.

As Gray spoke, a little girl visiting her father watched a DVD of Beauty and the Beasta few yards away. The swelling Disney music filled the visiting room, as "Whistle While You Work" had filled Susanne Worsham's head when Gray was on top of her on cold concrete 35 years before.

Never once did Gray look over at the child.

"You ruined my life"

In a tiny prison conference room on Jan. 10, 2002, Susanne Worsham sat still and nervous, awaiting her rapist.

Once a week for two years, she had spoken to a therapist to prepare for this moment, part of the Victim-Offender Dialogue program with the state Office of Victim Advocate. The idea is to give the victim the chance to ask her attacker, "Why?"

The sun had just come up. Worsham, who was with her sister, heard Gray's shackles dragging across the floor outside the room. She tensed up.

Gray walked in with his counselor and Worsham immediately looked down. Gathering herself, she raised her head, only to be met by his steady blue eyes.

Susanne Worsham and her mother Regina Dougherty in Ocala, Florida. ( CYNDI CHAMBERS / Special to The Inquirer )

"They were so piercing. I hadn't seen them since that night when I was 12. I was flooded with fear and anger."

Worsham fled the room, the therapeutic barrier she had built up over all those sessions now cracking.

She cried for 10 minutes. Then something steadier took hold. You've come too far, Susanne.

Worsham returned to the room, dug in, and looked Gray in the face.

"You ruined my life," she told him, banging the table.

"I'm sorry," he answered. "Can you forgive me?"

"I'm not willing to discuss that."

"A yes or no?"

"If and when I decide to forgive you, it's not something I would share with you. It's not for your benefit."

Gray told Worsham he had been taunted in prison. "As soon as they find out, they call me a baby rapist."

"If and when I decide to forgive you, it's not something I would share with you. It's not for your benefit."

Not my problem,Worsham thought. Throughout the session, she yelled, cursed, and screamed.

"Not everyone with a bad childhood becomes a rapist," she told him. Gray stayed calm, responding by saying God would bless her.

"If he found religion," Worsham said later, "good for him. But I don't need psalms thrown at me."

Worsham eventually got around to it: "Why?"

Gray could not really explain. He said Worsham had nothing to do with the rape. As though describing himself as a random violent event — a car accident or a hurricane — Gray told Worsham: "You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."

When the session ended, Gray said to Worsham, "I'm glad you came."

Worsham just turned and left.

"What would you say? ‘Good-bye'? ‘Take care'?

"I'm not so low-down as to say, ‘Rot in hell.' It's not me."

But Worsham wasn't going to shake his hand, either.

When she and her sister walked out of the prison, they stepped onto newly fallen snow. The air was cold, fresh.

"That was just what I needed," Worsham told her sister. "I finally got to say my piece."

For Worsham, it remains the most terrifying, most freeing thing she has ever done.

"I was able to take control of my life back. I don't let the situation consume me anymore."

Robbed childhood

Palm trees swayed in the wind, the miasmic Florida air no cooler for the breezes.

Ocala lacks Miami's sizzle or Key West's sophistication. It's a land of land, really, one horse farm after another.

Worsham and her mother, Regina Dougherty, were having lunch, talking, as they rarely do, about what happened on Nov. 26, 1979.

"The experience made me stronger," Worsham told Dougherty. Worsham is redheaded, pensive, with a soulful air. She does not smile easily.

This video image shows WPVI TV reporter Hank Sperka starting his December 1979 report of rapist William Gray's arrest at the scene of Susanne Worsham's attack. The TV news report was broadcast the day after Gray was arrested.( Video Image: 6 ABC TV )

"Do you honestly feel you let it go?" Dougherty asked.

"You can't let something like this go. But you can live without it controlling you. You can live without nightmares."

Worsham's self-understanding did not arise easily.

After the rape, she became an outcast among her classmates, one of whom called the house asking for Dougherty: "Tell her William Gray is on the phone."

Women at the Acme steered their carts away from Dougherty when they saw her shopping.

Worsham gained weight, became more insecure.

She refused therapy until her 30s. "I put it all in a box, sealed it up, and put in the back of the closet. And we as a family never talked about it. Like it never happened."

Not long after the attack, Dougherty was called for jury duty for a robbery-rape case. She gasped after noticing the familiar man seated in the courtroom. When potential jurors were asked if any of them could not serve, she raised her hand.

Dougherty was taken into the judge's chambers with the lawyers. The judge lit a Camel, then asked Dougherty, "Why can't you serve?"

Dougherty turned to the defense attorney. "I know you don't remember me."

"You can't let something like this go. But you can live without it controlling you. You can live without nightmares."

"No," he said.

"You defended the Jogging Rapist? My 12-year-old was raped by him."

"I'm so sorry, Mrs. Dougherty," Edward Ohlbaum said.

"I could never be fair to you," she told him.

The judge interjected. "You've done your civic duty. Go home."

He took Dougherty's name out of the juror system, and told her she would never be summoned again.

Two years after the attack, when Worsham was 14, the family moved to Ocala, where a relative lived. The impetus remains an unresolved issue between mother and daughter.

"Don't ever think what happened was the main reason we came to Florida," Dougherty told Worsham as they ate, not wanting her to think everything they had in Olney was upended because of that one night.

"I believe it has something to do with it," Worsham quietly countered.

"We've had a happy life here," Dougherty said, almost defensively. "We left Philadelphia because the city was changing."

When a child is raped, it kicks off confusion between sex and love later in life. It also eliminates the sense of a just world, experts say. Security is wiped out.

"Once safety goes, the whole world changes," Worsham said. "Without it, life is terrifying."

Dougherty, white-haired with a blunt, blue-collar manner, said the attack left her adult daughter needy, and unable to express what she feels.

"If the rape hadn't happened, you'd be less dependent on the family. You weren't like that before."

Worsham married in 1985, then divorced. She remarried and has been with her husband for 18 years. "The rape left me with trust issues."

She has two children, including a daughter she hovered over with hypervigilance: "I was always telling her to be aware of her surroundings."

As lunch went on, the subject of God came up, as it often does with Dougherty.

"I asked God for strength to make us still be a family," she said.

"For a long time, I was angry with God. You never questioned Him after this?" Worsham asked.

"No. But I just wanted us to be like we were."

Worsham nodded. She tried to assure her mother, saying that she can still feel joyful, and that she derives sustaining pleasure from helping people as a nurse.

These days, she fishes off a pier in Tampa with her husband, who repairs pools. It makes her calm.

About 860 miles north, former Northeast Detectives Capt. Kenny Schwartz finds peace from the same ocean, watching boats come and go in Delaware's Lewes Canal.

Kenny Schwartz ( CLEM MURRAY / Staff Photographer )

After he got out of prison for drug-related crimes, Schwartz sold cars. He now lives a quiet retiree's life in his immaculate, modest house. Gray's arrest was a "personal vindication," since Schwartz was the first to realize a serial rapist was loose in the Northeast.

But he is concerned that Gray, who will turn 71 by the end of this week, could be out of prison in a month.

"Let him get out at 85, and maybe he won't have that desire anymore."

Jack Maxwell, the detective who worked for Schwartz, also says Gray should remain incarcerated: "Once a pedophile, always a pedophile."

He says Gray's freedom would injure his victims psychologically. "If Gray were released and went to live in Tanzania, the women will still feel him being out."

These days, Maxwell works as an assistant professor of criminal justice at Drexel University. The pursuit of the Jogging Rapist is one of the lessons he imparts.

For a while, a few of the Northeast detectives would get together for 10- and 20-year anniversaries. The men were famous for a moment, having received a commendation from the Pennsylvania legislature for capturing the Jogging Rapist.

State Rep Hank Salvatore presents a citation to the Northeast Detective Division for its efforts in apprehending "the Jogging Rapist." Detectives responsible for cracking the case, left to right, Capt. Kenny Schwartz, Lt. Gerald Baker and Detective Michael Stanton. ( WILLIAM OWENS / Philadelphia Bulletin )

Nowadays, many of the guys are not around anymore. Maxwell stopped going.

Without doubt, Gray says, he would be a quiet citizen if released. He declares that the probability of his offending again is zero, because prison therapy taught him to care. His hope is that he'll get out, and that a nice "church lady" will take a liking to him, and that he could be happy.

A daughter from his first marriage who is Worsham's age got in touch two years ago, and now is slowly reestablishing contact after decades of nothing.

Gray, who said he never attacked his own children, told his daughter: "Don't call me Dad. I haven't earned it."

Soon, Worsham will send the state of Pennsylvania yet another letter asking that Gray's parole again be denied, once more saying that Gray "robbed me and so many other young girls of our childhoods."

Dougherty, meanwhile, continues to wrestle with how Gray destroyed the world she and her husband had built, with God's help, so many years ago in Olney.

Still feeling helpless over what happened, she finds herself wishing she could turn back time, to the days before her daughter was even born, when she and Gray were childhood playmates:

"I should have beaten Billy Gray as a kid. Maybe that would have made a difference.

"But you never have answers to life. Never."

alubrano@phillynews.com • 215 854 4969

CREDITS

Reporting and article: ALFRED LUBRANO / Inquirer Staff Writer Photography and video: CLEM MURRAY, RON TARVER and CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographers
Online production: FRANK WIESE / Inquirer Staff Images from news video: CBS3 Philadelphia, www.cbsphilly.com