A former Dorchester man who spent 18 years as a fugitive after his indictment in 1996 on child rape charges was acquitted of all counts last week, officials said Tuesday.
A Suffolk Superior Court jury on Friday acquitted Lens Chappell, 67, of charges alleging that he sexually assaulted four girls under the age of 16 between 1982 and 1996, according to the office of District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.
Chappell, now of Providence, said Tuesday in a brief phone interview that he was relieved when the verdict was rendered, but he lamented that it took 15 months for his case to proceed to trial after his arrest in 2014.
He was held in lieu of $750,000 bail while the matter was pending.
“That’s a long time to wait ... for something that you know you did not do,” he said. “I’m sorry, I can’t even talk about it. I get emotional.”
Chappell was initially indicted in 1996 on charges including eight counts of child rape, according to Conley’s office.
Prosecutors said he fled and was living under the alias Carter Jefferson when he was apprehended in Providence in November 2014.
He initially denied being the man authorities were looking for, but Boston police confirmed his identity through fingerprints, Conley’s office has said.
Jake Wark, Conley’s spokesman, said Tuesday in an e-mail that the verdict “was disappointing and reflects the challenges inherent in trying a child sexual assault case many years after the fact.
“Nonetheless, the victims were nothing short of inspirational in their courage and dignity, and we will continue to offer them the support and services they deserve.”
Chappell declined to discuss the case, but one of his public defenders, John Hayes, wrote in an e-mail that his client “adamantly denied” the charges when he testified at trial.
He also testified that he fled Boston “not because he was guilty of anything, but because he was frightened at the prospect of facing the accusations of four young women,” Hayes wrote. “He did not believe he could ever receive a fair trial in those circumstances.”
Hayes also commended the jury for their careful attention to the case.
“The lack of physical evidence, the lack of any disclosures by the young women, and the evidence showing that Mr. Chappell’s ex-wife may have been the catalyst for these accusations were important factors in the jury’s decision,” Hayes wrote.
Conley’s office said after Chappell’s arrest that the case came to light in the 1990s after “two of the victims disclosed abuse to authorities.” The four alleged victims were known to Chappell and to each other, prosecutors have said.
Hayes, the defense lawyer, wrote Tuesday that Chappell “has lived in Rhode Island since the late 1990s, and he built a family there. He also maintained contact with his children in Boston since he left the area in 1996. He has returned to his family and home in Rhode Island.”Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.