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Craigslist rape suspects plead guilty
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Craigslist rape suspects plead guilty

Both face life in prison at sentencing hearings

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He held it together initially, seemingly ready to admit to forcing his way into a woman's Casper home last year and violently raping her.

But Ty Oliver McDowell, shackled and dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit, lost his composure when a prosecutor listed the details of what transpired on the morning of Dec. 11.

"He left the victim naked, tied up on the floor and actually locked the door when he left," Natrona County District Attorney Michael Blonigen said while explaining in court the crimes McDowell was admitting to.

When Blonigen finished, Natrona County District Judge David Park asked the 26-year-old if he agreed with what the prosecutor said. After standing in silence for a few seconds, McDowell wiped tears on his shoulder before saying, "Yes, sir."

Moments later, Jebidiah James Stipe walked to the courtroom's podium and went through the same process. He showed no emotion.

When Thursday's hearing was done, McDowell and Stipe had both pleaded guilty to five felonies -- crimes they were charged with following the victim's rape.

An investigation by the Natrona County Sheriff's Office revealed that McDowell was led to the victim's home by a Craigslist ad Stipe posted requesting a lurid rape fantasy. In the ad, Stipe posed as the future victim, whom he had had a brief relationship with, according to court documents.

McDowell, a Bar Nunn resident, admitted to three counts of first degree sexual assault, one count of aggravated kidnapping and one count of aggravated burglary.

Stipe, a Carbon County native, admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit sexual assault and four other felonies related to the rape.

In exchange for them pleading guilty, prosecutors agreed to have each defendant's sentence run concurrently, or at the same time. At sentencing, they both face the possibility of life behind bars.

The ad appeared on Craigslist in early December, reading, in part, "Need a real aggressive man with no concerns for women well being interested let me know," according to an affidavit from the case.

The woman targeted in the ad contacted the San Francisco-based Internet company and had it taken down. But it was too late.

Less than a week after it appeared, McDowell showed up at the victim's west Casper residence.

"The defendant rushed her from behind and forced her into the house," Blonigen said during the hearing Thursday.

Once inside, the victim -- weighing less than 100 pounds -- struggled to fight McDowell off, biting and scratching him, the prosecutor said. Unable to escape, she was ultimately raped by McDowell. He also used a knife sharpener found in the home during the assault.

The victim -- who managed to dial 911 after her attacker left -- was found "with bruises from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet," Blonigen said.

Stipe paid for the Craigslist ad with his credit card. He was contacted by McDowell, and they began talking back-and-forth via the Internet. The communication included "very highly sexually charged e-mails flying back and forth between these two men," Blonigen said. He added that throughout a three-day period preceding the rape, Stipe "encouraged Mr. McDowell to carry out the rape fantasy."

The "fantasy" was to include blindfolding, gagging and humiliation, he said.

Stipe -- still posing as the woman -- supplied McDowell with the victim's address, according to court documents.

After the hearing Thursday, Blonigen said the state's case was "strong" for a number of reasons. Chief among them, he said, was the victim's willingness to testify at a possible trial, something he said would take strength and courage.

The prosecutor also praised investigation work done by the sheriff's office, along with the state crime lab and cooperation from California authorities.

Stipe, a Marine who was stationed in California at the time of his arrest, and McDowell, a former employee of the radiology department at Wyoming Medical Center, will have sentencing hearings within six to eight weeks.

They both remain in custody on six-figure bonds.

Reach crime reporter William Browning at (307) 266-0534 or at william.browning@trib.com.

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