Monday, Mar. 10, 2014
Derek Brooks enters guilty plea to attack and sexually assaulting woman
AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- 38-year old Derek Randolph Brooks will spend the next 20 years behind bars for his crimes. On Monday, in an Aiken County courtroom, he pleaded guilty to Criminal Sexual Conduct 1st Degree, Kidnapping, and Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature.
Brooks says he's guilty of attacking and sexually assaulting a woman early in the morning after she left an Aiken bar. Police say the young woman was left for dead, however, she survived. The victim bravely showed up to Brooks' plea to plead the judge for a maximum sentence for her attacker.
"She's been in everything that we asked her to be in. She's been very supportive of the process and likewise for us. We've been very supportive of her through the process," says Det. Jeremy Hembree with the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
The Aiken County Solicitor's Office says the victim was walking from Playoffs Sports Bar in Aiken around 2 AM. While the woman was walking south on Newberry Street, Brooks discretely trailed her in a Nissan Titan. At one point, Brooks pulled into a parking spot. He approached the victim, tapped her shoulder, but since she was on the phone, she ignored him. Brooks tapped her should again. This time, when the victim turned around, Brooks hit her in the face. Brooks punched her two more times, until the victim was unconscious. At this point, Brooks dragged her limp body down Newberry Street into a wooded median on Park Avenue. Police say Brooks then sexually assaulted the female victim and left her for dead. The victim woke up hours later and made it to Hotel Aiken, where EMS was called.
Assistant Solicitor Ashley Hammack says almost every bone was broken in the victim's face, including her eye sockets.
Public Safety then began an aggressive, tireless investigation. Officers pulled hour after hour of surveillance video from dozens of cameras on businesses along Newberry Street.
"You've got to go through each hour of that video to come up with, ultimately, what we were able to get and gather enough evidence to lead us to a conviction," says Hembree.
Additionally, Hammack says the DNA found on the victim matched Brooks. She says Brooks was the only match in the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).
Brooks formerly served as a track coach for Aiken High School. Brooks was also a football coach for Public Safety's Police Athletic League (PAL).
In court on Monday, Brooks' defense attorney, Jerry Screen, argued that his client has "redeeming value," in contrast to some of his other clients. However, the attorney admitted that Brooks "has a debt to pay to this society."
Screen compared Brooks to a less-than-perfect cake.
"It ain't a good cake, but it's the one you got in front of you," he told Circuit Court Judge Tommy Cooper.
Cooper accepted Brooks' plea, and sentenced Brooks to 20 years in prison. Brooks must serve at least 85% of that term.
"This was senseless." Cooper said to Brooks. "Your young boys are going to have to grow up without you."
While Brooks was originally charged with Attempted Murder, Hammack says that charge was reduced to an easier-to-prove Assault and Battery of a High and Aggravated Nature. Hammack says it would have been difficult to prove Attempted Murder, since it requires proving intent to kill.
The Solicitor's Office thanks Public Safety for hundreds of man-hours of work dedicated to the case. More than fifty subpoenas were completed. The Solicitor's Office had also prepared 66 exhibits for a potential trial. SLED and the Aiken County Sheriff's Office also assisted in the massive investigation.
Luckily for Hammack, Brooks pleaded guilty to the crimes, so a trial wasn't necessary. During the plea, Brooks turned around and apologized to the victim, the victim's family, his family, Aiken Public Safety, and Aiken High School.
The victim, who didn't know Brooks, said her heart breaks for Brooks and his family.
"Total stranger. Unprovoked. And, it's within our downtown area which we hold very valuable," says Det. Hembree.