Death of Newport women means that man accused of rape may go free

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 32-year-old Newport woman who died in an October car crash was in the midst of a fight to put away a man accused of sexually attacking her.

Now the family of April Loper fears that the criminal case against 51-year-old Thomas Acosta could be dismissed without Loper alive to testify.

“We are fearful for everyone involved,” said Loper’s aunt, Kathy Wagner of Shedd.

Acosta’s trial was set to begin last week, with Acosta facing charges that include first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, sexual abuse and strangulation, according to The Oregonian.

With Loper dead, however, her statements to authorities are not admissible.

Lincoln County deputy chief District Attorney Marcia Buckley sought exceptions to hearsay rules that would have allowed Loper’s statements to a nurse who conducted her medical exam, as well as statements to family and friends.

Lincoln County Circuit Judge Charles Littlehales ruled the testimony would not be allowed. That leaves prosecutors with little evidence remaining.

Court documents depict a violent attack that left Loper fearing for her life and her family, and left her vulnerable to a second attack that lasted for more than a week.

Wagner said Loper and Acosta had begun seeing each other in about October 2011. Loper grew afraid of Acosta, too afraid to end things with him, Wagner said.

Court documents say Loper was attacked by Acosta on Dec. 15 as she worked in her shop. The documents say Acosta knocked Loper unconscious when she hit him back.

She was bound with electrical tape when she awoke in the loft of the shop, according to the documents, which say Acosta repeatedly assaulted, sodomized and raped Loper throughout the night.

Acosta let Loper go in the morning, but stayed close by whenever she was around others, according to the court papers.

Loper told friends, but “swore them to secrecy ... convinced if she went to the police Acosta would make good on his threats to her and her family,” the documents say.

On Christmas Eve, Loper got in Acosta’s van and left with him to protect her family from him, according to the documents. Loper’s family waited for her to join for their Christmas celebration, then called police when she didn’t show up.

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