Volunteer fear: Graduation rapist convicted of stalking activist
Since his release from prison two years ago for the infamous 1989 graduation rape, Jeffrey Kitze has had a hard time getting a date. Returned to prison last year for unwelcome dating overtures, he was found guilty Monday, January 10, of stalking a Charlottesville woman.
Singles are often told that volunteering is a good way to meet people, and that's the avenue Kitze tried following his January 2009 release after serving 20 years for raping and beating his sister's UVA Law School roommate. Kitze donated time to the Virginia Organizing Project, but it was the attention he lavished on a fellow volunteer at a group called Food Not Bombs that resulted in the stalking conviction.
Wearing prison stripes, Kitze, 49, did not testify during the three-and-a-half hour trial, but according to the victim, he had plenty to say to her.
She told the court she first encountered him while riding her bike on Water Street in October 2009. He allegedly remarked that he knew her name from watching her on public access television and said the two would have plenty in common even though she was in her 20s.
Kitze soon started showing up at Food Not Bombs events. While cooking with the woman one day, he said she wouldn't believe how old he was.
"I bike 100 miles a day," the victim quoted the lovelorn Kitze. "I'm in shape. I have a beautiful body."
By November 2009, she saw him walking by her then-residence on Nalle Street in the Fifeville neighborhood.
"Here," she said in court, "was the one person I already felt fearful of outside my house."
A few day later, a cooking event was scheduled at her house, and she said she received nine phone messages from Kitze that seemed increasingly urgent. "I said, don't come to my house tonight, and don't ever call me again," the young woman testified.
The woman also testified that she chastised Kitze for trying to date younger women at Food Not Bombs events and that she curtailed her attendance for fear of running into him.
It wasn't until last March that she learned about Kitze's violent history when she ran into Joe Szakos, the executive chair of the Virginia Organizing Project. Around then, the group banished Kitze for allegedly using its meetings as a meet market.
"I went to Joe and said, 'I need your advice,'" the woman testified. "He said, 'Run as fast as you can.'"
If Kitze might seem merely creepy today, what he was convicted of doing nearly 21 years ago ranks high in annals of Charlottesville crime.
Then a resident of Rochester, New York, Kitze had come to Charlottesville with his parents to attend his sister's UVA Law School graduation. On May 22, 1989, the day after the commencement ceremony, he went into his sister's residence, where he found her roommate alone. According to accounts of his 1990 and 1994 convictions (the case was retried on appeal), he raped her and struck her in the head with a nearly fatal blow. Kitze testified to an "irresistible impulse" and claimed he did not feel responsible.
Indeed, via four letters written from jail last year, Kitze blamed his stalking victim for his arrest and accused her of unfairly revealing his history. She testified to a June 3 missive in which Kitze wrote that he spent 20 years in prison "for something I didn't do."
The woman concedes that it was the jailhouse letters and news stories about Kitze's October 5 probation violation conviction–- for making unwanted romantic advances toward Virginia Organizing Project volunteers–- that prompted her to contact his probation officer, obtain a protective order, and file the stalking complaint.
Why file when he's already in jail, asked defense attorney Andrew Sneathern?
"I now felt police might believe me," she said. "If I've made it really clear to someone there's not one iota of romance, and he says I want to be a dad, and you'd be a good mom, I feel really threatened."
According to the defense, Kitze was merely seeking the victim's help, including potentially testifying for him. Pointing out that Kitze made no overt threats in his multi-page letters, Sneathern accused the victim of sending Kitze mixed messages, saying she wanted no further contact, and then continuing to greet him at Food Not Bombs events.
Kitze's parents attended the hearing, and his father, Theodore Kitze, testified about being "graciously met" by the victim at one such event on his son's birthday last April. The elder Kitze also noted that his son was proud of working with Food Not Bombs.
Prosecutor Matthew J. Quatrara, however, argued that the victim's fear was "absolutely reasonable."
"These are very difficult cases for the court," said Judge Robert Downer. "It's abundantly clear [the victim] felt uncomfortable with any relationship with Mr. Kitze from the beginning."
Downer found Kitze guilty of stalking and sentenced him to 12 months in jail on the misdemeanor charge, with an active sentence of just two months, and cautioned him that further contact with the victim could trigger the additional 10 months.
That may be the least of Kitze's worries. Still incarcerated at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail, he awaits a parole violation hearing in March. There, he could face reinstatement of the remainder–- up to 15 years–- of his original rape and malicious wounding sentence.
--updated 1:51pm with detail on probation conviction rationale