Police: Rockview inmate alone with woman for 27 minutes during sexual assault

mcarroll@centredaily.comOctober 10, 2013 

A former Rockview state prison inmate charged Thursday with the brutal sexual assault of a female employee was alone with the woman for 27 minutes, despite the fact that she sounded her emergency whistle, police say.

Omar Best, 36, faces multiple felony counts, including rape and aggravated assault, stemming from the July 25 assault. He is accused of raping the woman and choking her unconscious.

Charging documents filed Thursday by state police revealed new details about the assault.

Police said Best was able to get the woman alone by walking into a clerical area where she was working. She blew a whistle to signify she was in danger when Best approached her, but no help came, police said.

Best was alone with the woman for 27 minutes before leaving on his own accord, video surveillance shows.

Best, who has been transferred to another prison, was arraigned on the new charges Thursday afternoon before District Judge Leslie Dutchcot. Bail was set at $250,000, according to court documents.

An attorney for Best was not listed.

The woman worked as a clerk typist and was not to have contact with inmates, according to state Sen. Jake Corman, who has called for statewide changes in prison policy because of the attack.

She had been working at the prison for a little more than a month at the time of the assault, but had already made complaints about Best.

The woman told police Best had made her feel uncomfortable, coming into her office and asking personal questions such as whether she was married or had children and where she lived.

Best had been told by prison staff to stay away from the woman, but on the morning of the assault, he entered her workspace saying he was there to empty the trash.

Police laid out details of the assault in the charging documents, saying the woman handed Best the trash can but the inmate threw it to the ground and wrapped his arm around the woman’s neck.

When she blew a whistle to signify she was in danger, Best told the woman he had a knife and threatened to stab her.

The woman told police she believed she was going to die and fought for her life until losing consciousness. When she woke, her clothes had been partially removed.

State Department of Corrections officials have said the assault prompted a review of where clerical employees are stationed throughout the state prison system.

A DOC spokeswoman said the department is also working to provide additional emergency resources to staff who need to call for assistance.

The incident also prompted calls for reform and investigation from two local legislators.

Corman asked the DOC to review how it treats non-contact employees.

“It’s shocking to me that non-contact employees, who are not guards and who have not received defensive training, would have any contact with inmates or be left alone with inmates,” he wrote in a letter to the DOC. “This policy must be changed immediately.”

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett asking for a formal investigation into the attack.

Police previously identified Best as a suspect in search warrants seeking DNA samples and copies of his medical records.

In a criminal complaint filed Thursday, police wrote Best’s DNA samples matched ones taken from the employee after the assault.

Best, previously from Philadelphia, has an extensive criminal history, according to court documents.

In a 2011 case in Philadelphia, he pleaded guilty to charges of rape by forcible compulsion and robbery and was sentenced to serve seven and half years to 15 years in state prison. Numerous other counts, including aggravated assault and sexual assault, were not pursued as part of the plea, court documents show.

In a 1996 case, he pleaded guilty to indecent assault and simple assault, while other counts, including attempted rape, were dropped.

He has pleaded guilty in additional cases to charges such as aggravated assault, robbery and gun violations, according to court papers.

Matt Carroll can be reached at 231-4631. Follow him on Twitter @Carrollreporter.

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