As a 20-year-old woman tried to restart her stalled car last month, a stranger jumped in holding a beer. He said he needed a ride home.
In reality, he craved something else.
After they reached his Kansas City apartment, he raped her.
At the time, she did not know that he was a convicted murderer who had been arrested in two other sexual assaults in 2005 and 2006. Both times authorities deemed the cases too weak and released Lawrence E. Neal, now 40.
The situation highlights a weakness in the justice system recognized by lawyers and exploited by some criminals: If offenders choose the “right” victims, preferably those addicted to drugs or involved in crime, and put them in implausible situations, prosecution becomes extremely difficult.
That is what an Overland Park, Kan., woman didn’t want to happen when she accused Neal of raping her in Kansas City in November 2005.
“I came forward for a reason,” said the woman, now 26. “It was very degrading to talk about these things, but I did it to help someone else. And it didn’t.”