Maureen O'Boyle travels to GA to fight rapist's release from prison

Journey for Justice
(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
(Kristen Hampton | WBTV)
WBTV anchor Maureen O'Boyle
WBTV anchor Maureen O'Boyle

(WBTV) - Maureen O'Boyle is an accomplished journalist, devoted mom, someone who is dedicated to helping charities and non-profits in our community.

She believes in telling stories that can help others, including the most horrifying experience of her life. It's about the night she was raped and terrorized by a man who targeted Maureen when she was alone in her apartment.

James Starling has served 30 years of a 50 year sentence for raping Maureen and another woman in Bibb County, Georgia in 1986. Now, there's a chance he could be paroled.

"It was just the thought of him being out again that brought up all this stuff in me, that I obviously, had not 100-percent dealt with," said Maureen, holding back tears.

It was April 4, 1986. Maureen was 24 years old. She anchored the morning news for the CBS affiliate in Macon, Georgia. It was a dream job for someone just starting out.

Maureen's roommate had recently moved out. She went to bed early to be rested for the overnight shift. She awoke in fear with Starling on top of her, holding a knife.

"My life flashed in a second. And all I could hear was, 'I'm going to kill you and no one will ever find the pieces," she said.

IN HER OWN WORDS: Maureen O'Boyle describes the night she was terrorized, raped

In newspaper accounts from Starling's guilty plea, the prosecutor said Starling was "more dangerous to society than a murderer" and there was "no hope he could be cured." Starling told probation officers that he committed more than 50 other burglaries.

The thought of his freedom terrified Maureen.

"I've done stories, I've done speeches about being a rape survivor," said Maureen.  "I am a survivor but… the possibility of him getting out really brought everything to the surface," she said.

The attack changed Maureen and made her fight to reclaim herself. Therapy and support were big parts of the healing process and helped her push forward.

Starling's potential parole was another test.

Maureen researched the parole process, started an online petition, and headed down to Atlanta to make her case before a member of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole.

"I walked through the crime. And I cried a lot. I had a hard time keeping it together," she said, choking up outside the Pardons and Parole office. Her daughter, Keegan, came to the meeting for support.

"I think I said everything I could say," said Maureen about her meeting with the Board member. "He said there's no way I'll vote to let this guy out."

After Atlanta, Maureen and Keegan drove to the Bibb County District Attorney's Office, whose team prosecuted the case.

"The effects of that crime are so profound. They're both visible and invisible to society. It's a whole lot to deal with and heal from afterwards," said Betsy Loiacono, who is the DA's victims advocate.

Thirty years after their office got the guilty plea, Loiacono advised Maureen on how to navigate the parole process.

"She was a very powerful speaker. I think she was very candid and honest. She was very brave and she was heard by everyone in the room," said Loiacono.

Hearing from the victim is only part of the equation in deciding a prisoner's release. The Board looks at conduct, risk to re-offend, and details of the court record. A majority of Board members must agree on the decision, which is still pending in Starling's case.

Part of the journey included seeing the courtroom where Maureen saw Starling's face for the first time. She seemed caught off-guard by the emotion of being in that room and reliving the moment.

"It's exactly the same," she said. "I remember him coming in that door."

Maureen knew that day that her attacker would pay for the crime. However, she never expected, as a victim, that she would have to remain vigilant 30 years later.

There was one more place she needed to see before heading back to Charlotte.

"I think my apartment is around this curve," said Maureen behind the wheel of a rental car. It was her first time returning to the complex since the crime.

After three decades, it looked different, felt different – and so did she.

"I just feel like I needed to do this trip. Even after all these years," she said. Her face looked more serene that it had the whole trip.

"I've still made a great life for myself," said Maureen looking at her daughter.

"It didn't define me. So it's good. It was a good trip," she said.

Getting the help you need

If you are a victim of rape, support is out there. Call the 1-800-656-HOPE for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN).

If you know a victim – the best thing to do is be supportive. Be there and listen without judgment.

Be patient and encourage the victim to report the crime and seek support. Remember, there is no timetable for healing.

If your attacker is arrested and convicted, it's important to register with your state's Board of Pardons and Parole for victim notification about a pending release.

Survivors can also contact the victims advocate who works with the District Attorney's Office which prosecuted the case. The victims advocate can also help with the victim notification process.

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