Benton Harbor "serial rapist" sentenced to 40 to 60 years in prison

Published: Jun. 13, 2016 at 6:25 PM EDT
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A Benton Harbor man, described as a "serial rapist" by police, will face 40 to 60 years behind bars after committing three rapes last summer.

Marcus Stewart, 42, was found guilty on four charges last month, including three sexual assault charges. He will spend likely the rest of his life in jail.

In what was a bittersweet day for Stewart's victims, they celebrated his fate. Although the prosecutor says his attacks will stay with them forever.

"This case was a very emotional case," Jennifer Smith, Berrien County Chief Assistant Prosecutor said. "In dealing with the three victims, it was very emotional for them."

Stewart faced three charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct, including charges of assault by strangulation. He was also found guilty for a fourth charge of home invasion and interfering with a telecommunications device. However, it was the three rapes which detailed his serial nature and vile acts.

"The defendant strangled the victim from behind," Berrien County District Judge Donna B. Howard said. "Causing her to feel as though she couldn't breathe or scream and as though her chest, head and eyes were on fire. She felt her eyes pop. As a result of the attack, [she] urinated on herself."

"All cases are emotional," Smith said. "All cases take a lot out of you. But this case, especially when you feel this person would be someone who would commit a crime again, it's a weight on your shoulders to make sure that doesn't happen."

Judge Howard handed down the sentence due to his violent history. Stewart was arrested in the 90's for carrying a concealed weapon and also a separate battery charge.

"We talked about the word terror in there," Smith said. "I don't know if you remember the press coverage after it came out. There were three successive sexual assaults of a similar nature. The women and citizens of Benton Harbor were fearful. So to be able to put an end to that is a great thing. A lot of time was spent making sure we did all the right things here because this was a very dangerous man to get off the streets. So I feel justice was served by the sentence."

Two of Stewart's three victims were in the court room to hear the sentencing. When Judge Howard read his sentence, a light but audible exclamation was heard; relief that the man who did this to them is going to jail for likely the rest of his life.

"These victims were all very relieved," Smith said. "This was a difficult process for them, as you can imagine for any victim of sexual assault. They found some solace in each other which was great. I think for them, it's validation and peace of mind that they don't have to worry about this person being around them anymore."

Validation may be an understatement. One of the victims dropped to her knees after she left the court room, weeping about her nightmare having a conclusion. After all, the nightmare will never be over for her, as sexual assault is something she will carry for the rest of her life. However, she can now begin to move on.

"They gave me my life back," the victim said.