KC man suddenly admits guilt at rape trial

A Kansas City man representing himself during a criminal trial in Platte County Circuit Court abruptly pleaded guilty Tuesday to the 2006 rape of a woman at a Northland apartment.

Zachary L. Townsend, 43, of Kansas City, admitted on the second day of his trial that he entered an unlocked apartment on Dec. 21, 2006, and raped and sodomized a woman sleeping there.

The criminal charges stemmed from a DNA cold case that had remained unsolved for more than three years. Townsend was among the first charged outside Jackson County as part of the Kansas City Police Department’s cold case program. The attack occurred at The Crossings apartment complex in the 7800 block of Northwest Roanridge Road.

During the trial, the victim, who was 27 at the time, said she was awakened sometime after 11 p.m. by a man standing near her bedroom door. He forced her to her car, where he raped her. He later took her back to her apartment and repeatedly raped and sodomized her for several hours, said Platte County Prosecutor Eric Zahnd.

At one point during the assaults, the woman screamed and Townsend choked her and threatened to kill her.

Townsend fled the following morning. The victim, who had numerous bruises and injuries, went to a hospital, Zahnd said.

In 2007, a composite sketch of the attacker was featured on a digital billboard near the apartment complex on Interstate 29 near Barry Road. Authorities identified Townsend as the attacker through a DNA database in March 2010.

Circuit Judge Owens Lee Hull Jr. allowed Townsend to represent himself during the bench trial that began Monday. During court proceedings before the trial, Townsend fired the public defender assigned to him.

During the trial Tuesday, Townsend suddenly announced to Hull that he wanted to plead guilty. Hull told Townsend he would give him time to think about his request and to speak with his family, who attended the trial. After a short break, Townsend returned and informed Hull that his decision was final, said Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gibson.

Townsend is scheduled to be sentenced July 29 and faces up to life in prison.