A Portsmouth man faces multiple life sentences after pleading guilty to the violent rape of a Charlottesville woman last year while he was on the lam as one of the Virginia Department of Corrections’ “Most Wanted.”
Lenny R. Dortch, 42, was arrested December 2020 and charged with one felony count of abduction with intent to defile, one count of rape and two counts of felony use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The charges stem from a Dec. 17, 2020 incident in which Dortch raped a woman near a Madison Avenue apartment building.
At the time of the incident, Dortch, a registered sex offender, was considered one of the most wanted people in the state by the Virginia Department of Corrections, who issued an alert about him a month before the December rape. He was wanted for violating the terms and conditions of his supervised probation in a different locality than Charlottesville.
Dortch had been set to go to trial Monday but chose to plead guilty during the afternoon, following an entire morning of jury selection. According to Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Richard E. Moore, three panels of jurors had been interviewed and a pool of 24 potential jurors had been established. All were dismissed following Dortch’s guilty plea.
Dressed in a black long-sleeved shirt and camo pants, Dortch sat next to his attorney in the Charlottesville Circuit Courthouse’s lower court as the prosecution outlined their evidence against him. It is typical for the prosecution to summarize evidence before a circuit court judge accepts a defendant’s guilty plea.
According to Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Areshini Pather, the 26-year-old victim was attacked by a man wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants soon after leaving a Madison Avenue gym around 9 p.m. Dec. 17.
The man, later identified as Dortch, approached her, pointed a gun at her and threatened to kill her. He then took her to an area more than 100 yards away that was concealed by bushes and proceeded to rape her, alternating between pointing the gun at her head or putting it in her mouth.
“He told the victim ‘If anyone catches us, I will kill you. If anyone catches us, I will kill you both,’” Pather said, referencing interviews given by the victim in the wake of the attack.
The victim managed to block Dortch’s ejaculate with her hands, which were later swabbed and found to contain genetic material matching Dortch. After Dortch left the scene, the victim returned home and called police. She was transported to the University of Virginia Medical Center where, according to a physicians report, it was noted she had a litany of injuries consistent with the rape and physical assault she described.
Video footage from nearby cameras was sought by the Charlottesville Police Department, Pather said, and footage from a convenience store ended up being a key piece of evidence, depicting a man who matched the victim’s description. Officers interviewed a person seen at the store with the person of interest, who identified their companion as Dortch. When the home Dortch was staying in was searched, clothing matching the victim’s description was found.
When Dortch was brought in for questioning, Pather said he made incriminating statements to himself while in the interview room. The comments were recorded via audio-visual recording equipment.
“He said, ‘They have my DNA, they have my DNA. It’s a wrap,’ and ‘I effed up,’” Pather said, referencing the interview footage from the city police.
Mike Hallahan, Dortch’s court-assigned defense attorney, did not outline any opposing evidence Monday.
Judge Richard E. Moore accepted Dortch’s guilty plea, acknowledging that it had been made freely. Dortch faces a maximum sentence of life in prison for the abduction and rape charges and mandatory minimum of either three or five years for each of the firearm charges.
Dortch will be sentenced at 9 a.m. on March 14 in Charlottesville Circuit Court.