Victims confront rapist
The North Idaho women attacked by serial rapist Paul Earl Hawkins said he deserves the same sentence they received: a lifetime to think about his violent crimes.
“I haven’t slept through the night yet, and it’s been 43 months,” one of the women Hawkins attacked said in court Friday before a judge sentenced him to five consecutive life terms in prison.
Three of the women he confessed to assaulting faced him in court for the first time and spoke of their ordeals. Hawkins avoided a trial as a result of a plea deal.
“I don’t know (how) the crimes you committed against society, these women, could be any more horrific,” 1st District Judge John Luster said.
Citing the need to protect society, Luster said Hawkins must serve at least 100 years for the rapes of three women, penetration with a foreign object and infamous crime against nature.
The 34-year-old father of four also was sentenced to 15 years for five other felonies committed in 2003, including aggravated battery, attempted rape, two burglaries and an attempted robbery.
“Some would advocate (that) forcible rape is as horrific as murder,” Luster said. “In some instances, rape is worse … The pain and suffering will never end.”
Hawkins’ rape victims include an 82-year-old woman so brutally attacked that she still suffers from internal injuries. Her son testified Friday that she also suffers from emotional trauma.
“Before the attack, she had tended her flowers, walked to the store, took cookies to her neighbors,” he said. She tried to return home after the attack but suffered nightmares, he said.
The man said Hawkins should be imprisoned until he “knows the vulnerability of being 80 years of age.”
Another victim testified that she had five children at home when Hawkins broke into her house and raped her.
“I did everything I could not to scream so they wouldn’t wake up and see what he was doing,” she said. “I spent a year not sleeping, sitting by my front door waiting for him to come back so I could end his life for what he had done.”
The woman who hadn’t slept well in 43 months also said she stays awake, crouched on the floor with a weapon in her hand. “I don’t know if I will ever be able to go to bed without being afraid again,” she said.
She was confident, outgoing and happy before Hawkins entered her home in Spirit Lake and tried to rape her, she said. Now she’s withdrawn and guarded, and she had to quit her job and move 100 miles away to try to escape what he did to her.
The Spokesman-Review does not identify victims of sexual assault or their family members.
Hawkins initially faced 24 charges, including the rapes of six women in Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene, Rathdrum and Spirit Lake. Several charges were dismissed as part of a plea deal.
The string of rapes in 2003 struck fear in women in the community. Descriptions of the assailant varied, and some believed the rapist was preying on elderly women or those who lived alone.
Post Falls Police Detective Dave Beck compared Hawkins with Spokane rapist Kevin Coe and serial rapist and killer Robert Yates Jr.
“He started out as a peeping tom,” Beck said, but became more brazen, and the criminal behavior escalated. Hawkins began breaking into homes, committing burglaries, Beck said. Then he progressed to “the unthinkable, violent, predatorial-type crimes.”
Authorities got an anonymous tip last summer that Hawkins might be the guy they were looking for. Coeur d’Alene Police detectives met with Hawkins, who provided a DNA sample.
Beck said Hawkins told the detectives as he left, “Let me know if it’s me.”
Within weeks, lab results confirmed Hawkins was the serial rapist. Police arrested him in June.
Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Blake Swenson dismissed Hawkins’ claim that he was high on drugs or drunk and in a fog when he committed the crimes. The attacks were carefully planned, Swenson said.
Hawkins stalked the victims and came prepared with weapons, a ski mask and gloves. He parked his car away from the homes and instructed victims to clean themselves afterward to wash away evidence.
Swenson noted that Hawkins was able to provide police with distinct details about each crime, the victims and their homes. He also admitted to additional crimes and was able to recall the date and location of each.
Chief Deputy Public Defender Lynn Nelson said Hawkins was verbally and physically abused as a child.
“Environment plays a role in everything,” Nelson said, adding that he wasn’t trying to diminish the crimes.
He suggested Hawkins could be rehabilitated, noting that he stopped committing crimes from fall 2003 to the time of his arrest.
“He so brutalized one of his victims, he thought he had killed her,” Nelson said.
Afterward, Hawkins sought counseling for his addiction to alcohol and drugs, he said.
Hawkins cried Friday as he faced his victims and apologized. In response, one woman swore at him, calling him a “son of a bitch.”
“The things I’ve done have been horrible,” Hawkins said.
He said his own children think of him as a monster, and he apologized to them, too.
“I live with each and every one of your tragedies every day,” he said to the women he raped and beat. “I know I don’t live with them the same way you do, but I live with them.”
Prosecutors and detectives involved in the case said they couldn’t be happier with the sentence.
“It’s essentially the worst possible sentence he could have received,” Kootenai County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Marty Raap said.
Beck agreed. “I’m happy for the victims and the community,” he said. “They can feel safe that this person will not be able to do this in his lifetime again.”