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Facing a wall of evidence, Suffolk man pleads guilty to abducting UVa student

New details about how close a University of Virginia student came to death at the hands of a traveling road worker were revealed in court Tuesday.

That traveling road worker, 41-year-old Suffolk resident James Robert Allen, pleaded guilty that same day to abduction and malicious wounding charges.

The incident that began at the corner of Rugby Road and Burnley Avenue in Charlottesville rocked the UVa community last autumn.

As the victim and her parents listened from the gallery in Charlottesville Circuit Court, the city Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania recounted the events that transpired around 9:39 p.m. Oct. 4.

"Police officers dispatched to the scene immediately located a female who had blood on her face, duct tape on her wrists and significant abrasions on her face, stomach and arm," said Platania.

As previously reported in The Daily Progress, the victim rolled out of a pickup truck on Cabell Avenue after a UVa professor’s family, hearing the victim’s screams from their house, gave chase. New details Platania shared in court were the victim’s internal injuries: broken blood vessels in her eyes, under-skin bleeding around her eyes and a fractured hyoid bone.

All three conditions are consistent with choking to the point of unconsciousness and might explain a chilling omission in the victim’s memory.

"She does not have a clear recollection of her hands being duct taped," Platania told the court.

What the young woman, whose identity will be withheld from the public, did remember was similarly sobering.

"The victim recalls being wrestled to the ground at some point and being punched in the face," said Platania. "He told her to stop resisting and that he was going to kill her."

Keeping his gaze fixed on Platania and on Judge Claude Worrell, Allen sat in the courtroom Tuesday wearing a military-grade buzz cut and the striped jumpsuit of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, where he’s been held since his arrest the day after the foiled abduction. He showed no obvious signs of emotion as Platania spoke.

The prosecutor noted that during an apologetic jailhouse phone call with his wife, Allen seemed to wrestle with his culpability.

"I know I f–ked up," he allegedly told her. "I don’t know what was going through my head."

After the judge grimly leafed through nearly a dozen photographs of the victim’s injuries, filed under seal, the prosecutor described an accumulation of evidence tying Allen to the scene. When Allen fled the truck after crashing into a tree at the intersection of Cabell and Grady Avenues, Platania said, he left behind his iPad, cellphone and an identification card. Additionally, Platania said, investigators found a roll of duct tape while working the scene.

Platania said the truck was registered to Curtis Contracting Inc., the West Point-based firm that employed Allen. The company holds a $28.5 million contract to design and build six intersections in the Charlottesville area, including the under-construction roundabout linking Hydraulic Road and Hillsdale Drive.

The evidence against Allen also included GPS data, which shows the truck driving from a Sheetz convenience store in Ruckersville, where Allen was photographed using a credit card recovered with his phone, all the way to Rugby Road the night of the attack. Allen had been staying at a Ruckersville-area Holiday Inn.

Other than quietly answering yes-and-no questions and uttering his two guilty pleas, Allen made no statement in court, and his lawyer, Mike Hallahan, similarly remained silent.

They, along with the victim, are slated to return to court Aug. 27 for sentencing. A malicious wounding conviction can bring a maximum 20-year sentence while an abduction conviction can bring 10 years. The judge told Allen that he may order that the sentences get served consecutively for a maximum of 30 years.

At sentencing, Allen’s prior criminal record will likely be mentioned. He has convictions for grand larceny, breaking and entering, and for what was initially charged in Fauquier County as an abduction and malicious wounding. After a mistrial, those charges were eventually reduced to an assault and battery conviction with a 12-month jail sentence.

Charlottesville Police Chief previously served as the chief of police in Warrenton, the county seat of Fauquier. Although the 2008 incident preceded his stint in Warrenton, Kochis said he is aware of the case.

"It’s eerily similar," he told The Daily Progress.


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