WOODSTOCK, Va. (WHSV) – The victim of an alleged attack at Edinburgh City Park is speaking out after saying the justice system has failed her and her family. Samuel Jacob Homer was charged with stabbing Whitney Rice and two of her children in the park in 2017. The case against him was dismissed last week.
Early in the court process, Homer was declared unfit to stand trial due to mental illness. He spent time at RSW Regional Jail and Western State Hospital before being released to a group home in February 2022.
“It’s frustrating to feel that there is no justice for very violent, brutal and scary crimes. I was confused, before that I didn’t know there were statutes of limitations for charges like attempted murder and malicious wounding,” Rice said.
Rice said she was worried for her family’s safety after Homer’s case was dismissed. She told WHSV that she felt like she had no voice throughout the legal process and that the justice system had let her down.
“I was told he would never leave Western State, he would be there forever and we would never have to worry about it. To see it fall apart and change everything was the last year, but I felt like it all happened so fast and no one warned me it was coming,” Rice said.
With the charges against him dismissed, Rice fears that Homer will soon be fired from his group and roam free in his community.
“When we were in court he made eye contact with me for periods of time, he smiled at me. There was even a time when a bailiff had to get between us because he turned around smiling and making faces, so he knows who I am and he knows who my kids are,” she said.
AC Rieman is an attorney and legal analyst in Culpepper, Virginia. She said statutes of limitations exist in Virginia to protect the integrity of evidence and ensure an efficient court system.
Different charges have different statuses and because Homer’s case was for attempted murder and not aggravated murder, the status expired after five years, leading to the case being dismissed.
“In that case, I think that status might need to be reassessed. Fortunately, the code section is updated every summer, but hopefully we’ll take a closer look at cases like this, because it’s not just one person who falls through the cracks,” Rieman said.
Rieman explained how Homer being ruled incompetent changed the case and ultimately led to his dismissal.
“Because in this particular case, Mr. Homer was found to be incompetent and the disqualification to stand trial was not reversible, which means that he had such a mental defect that he was not foreseeable in the future that he would be able to help his attorney or even understand the charges and the trial that was going on against him,” she said.
To her surprise, Rice also struggled to obtain a protective order against Homer for her and her children. She said her initial request was rejected because the alleged attack took place five years ago.
“I was shocked at what I had to go through trying to get one and I still don’t have one and I don’t know if I ever will. I know people will say it’s just a piece of paper, but having a bit of protection in place just in case for me should be a no-brainer,” Rice said.
Rieman said that for a protection order to be issued, the person filling it must be in fear for their life.
“If something has happened recently that causes him to fear for his life, it should initially be temporary and then there could be a hearing to determine if a permanent order should be made so that he cannot go near less than X feet from her,” Rieman said.
Rice said it was very upsetting for her that she and her children now face the possibility of seeing Homer in public in the future.
“I’ve lived here all my life, my parents live here, it’s my children’s home and now sometimes I think maybe we should move, maybe we should get out of here because I don’t don’t like to feel like there’s this uncertainty of whether I could ever see him if he could find out where I live if he could try to contact me,” she said.
Homer could one day face charges again if he is found fit to stand trial. Even though the court process is over, state law dictates that Homer must still be regularly evaluated for his competence.
“Virginia’s code section is 19.2 and states that if the defendant is found mentally incompetent in the foreseeable future, he must undergo an evaluation every six months,” AC Rieman said. “My hope for the victim and his family would be that in the event that Mr. Homer is found competent and able to stand trial, the prosecution would bring these charges against him because they were dismissed without prejudice.”
Rice said she hopes to be a voice for other victims who feel neglected by the legal process. She hopes that changes can be made that will give victims more resources and involvement in the cases of their abusers.
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