DECATUR — Robert C. Stagger, charged with repeatedly raping a woman after cutting her head open with a bottle and threatening to kill her with a knife, pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated criminal sexual assault as part of a plea deal.
Stagger, 53, will be sentenced to between six and 20 years in prison, to be served at 85 percent, at a sentencing hearing June 6.
Stagger, who is being held in the Macon County Jail on $2 million bond, also is facing charges of first-degree murder in an unrelated case in which he allegedly stabbed and bludgeoned 84-year-old Charles E. Hood to death in his eastside home in November 2011.
At his plea hearing Wednesday afternoon, Stagger stood in front of Circuit Judge Thomas E. Griffith, accompanied by Assistant Public Defender Karen Root.
Stagger answered with one-word responses as the judge asked him if he understood the charges against him and agreed with the terms of the plea deal.
Griffith told him he was pleading guilty to count six, in which he was charged with raping the victim anally and “in doing so you struck (the victim) on the head causing a laceration.” The attack occurred in the vicinity of the 1000 block of West Macon Street.
Reciting the factual basis of the case, First Assistant State’s Attorney Nichole Kroncke told the court that on Nov. 9, 2005, Stagger and the 40-year-old victim consumed alcohol, smoked crack cocaine and engaged in consensual sex. After she returned home and went to sleep, Stagger knocked on her door. He persuaded her to walk down an alley with him, but she refused to enter a vacant house.
Stagger became angry and struck the victim in the head with a wine bottle, punched her in her face with his fist, tried to choke her and pushed her off a porch, injuring her knee. He eventually pulled her into the vacant house, displayed a knife and repeatedly forced her to engage in sex acts.
After Stagger was arrested in December 2011 in connection with the murder of Charles E. Hood, his DNA was matched to the DNA of the rapist in the 2005 case. His sexual assault case was scheduled to be tried before a jury this week. Potential jurors were released from service Wednesday afternoon, when Stagger agreed to plead guilty in exchange for a maximum sentence of 20 years. If he had been convicted by a jury, he could have been sentenced to up to 30 years.
Kroncke said a key factor in offering a deal was relieving the victim of having to undergo the stress and trauma of testifying against Stagger.
“We felt it was a strong case, but there’s also a risk the jury may acquit,” Kroncke said.
When Stagger appears in court June 6 for his sentencing, a hearing will also be held to determine the status of his murder case.