NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A 71-year-old Norfolk man was sentenced to 27 years in prison on Friday for the rape of a Norfolk woman, the Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office announced.
Charles Edward Cunningham Jr. was previously found guilty of abduction with intent to defile, rape, forcible sodomy, and two counts of assault and battery, by a Norfolk jury back in August.
Norfolk prosecutors say Cunningham first met the victim in 2018. She was experiencing homelessness at the time, and Cunningham would give her food and money in exchange for sex acts, prosecutors say.
Then in 2021, the victim reached out to Cunningham because she and her fiancé needed a place to stay. And on Feb. 8, 2021, while the victim’s fiancé was out of town, Cunningham invited the victim to his apartment to show her a room Cunningham said was available for rent.
After the two talked for about an hour, prosecutors say Cunningham demanded sex. The victim initially agreed and began to undress, but changed her mind and attempted to leave. That’s when Cunningham grabbed her and struck her numerous times, prosecutors say, before strangling her with both hands before she collapsed to the floor.
Cunningham then confiscated the victim’s phone and took her to his bedroom and raped her while armed with a pocket knife. Prosecutors say she wasn’t able to leave the apartment safely until early the next morning when Cunningham allowed her to go.
The victim eventually reached Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where she spoke with detectives and was seen by a sexual assault nurse examiner. She had bruising and scratches on her hands, arms, chest and throat.
“Charles Cunningham predated and victimized one of our most vulnerable citizens, raping her mercilessly when she came to him desperate for help,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi. “This was a difficult case to try, but we tried it. It was a difficult case for the jury, but they rightly convicted. Now we have held Mr. Cunningham accountable. Mr. Cunningham will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison, where he will not be able to harm this victim ever again.”
Cunningham’s conviction was the latest in a career of violence against women, prosecutors say. He was also convicted of assault on a woman in 1983, two counts of assault on a woman in 1990, and assault and sexual battery in 2008, in addition to other assault, robbery and extortion convictions.