BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The victim of a brutal rape stood up in court during a sentencing hearing and offered her forgiveness to the man who attacked her.
"She told him how this affected her life and how hard it was to believe that it happened," said Sue Bernie, prosecutor. She also said that she forgave him, which was a powerful statement. Fortunately, she's a survivor."
The victim was 22-years-old when Baker-resident Michael Rushing kidnapped her at gunpoint and raped her. Although the woman feared for her life, she kept a clear head and provided all the evidence investigators would need to identify Rushing.
"What she explained to me is that she didn't know if she was going to live so when it was happening, she tried to remember as much as she could just in case she managed to escape," Bernie explained.
Rushing initially took the woman from a parking lot in Baton Rouge, drove her to Iberville Parish where he raped her, then brought her back to Baton Rouge and left her in the parking lot of the McDonald's on Nicholson.
"When she was at the scene, she pulled out some of her hair and left it behind," Bernie said. "She had blue fingernail polish on and she flicked that off in places, which they were able to recover. She wanted to make sure that if something happened to her they would be able to find the person responsible to make sure it didn't happen to someone else."
But this woman was not Rushing's first victim. A second victim was in court as well. She was only 14-years-old when Rushing kidnapped and raped her.
"She never saw his face until today," Bernie said. "He blindfolded her, so she never got to see him."
The girl was abducted from her neighborhood on June 16, 2000, but investigators never identified a suspect.
"She was thankful he was caught," Bernie said. "All of those years she never knew whether he would get caught, whether he would do it to someone else."
Unfortunately, investigators were only able to solve the case after the second victim contacted police. Thankfully, both cases were solved and without the pain of having relive their experiences during trial.
"We were all set to go to trial on Monday and then he pleaded guilty," Bernie said. "As far as the victims are concerned, I think it's made it a lot better on them because they will not have to live through the experience again. But they were there and they were ready and willing to testify."
Rushing, who is now 50-years-old and suffering from skin cancer, was sentenced to spend 40 years in prison. Although he will get credit for the two years he's spent in prison since his arrest, he will not be eligible for early release or parole.
"I think in this particular case, as far as the net effect of the sentencing, I think that the 40 years for him considering his age and health is tantamount to a life sentence," Bernie concluded.