JURY FINDS GUNTER GUILTY OF RAPE

July 16, 2002 11:00 pm
Chester Gunter ().
Chester Gunter ().

OREGON CITY — A jury last week had few doubts about the verdict in the case against a 43-year-old La Grande man accused of the December kidnapping and rape of a Starbucks employee.

It took the 12-person jury less than two hours late Friday to return guilty verdicts on the six felony charges facing Chester Lawrence Gunter, said Clackamas County Assistant District Attorney Christine Landers.

Gunter was charged with first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration, first-degree kidnapping and two counts of second-degree robbery.

Following the reading of the verdict, Judge Eve Miller revoked Gunter's bail, which had been set at slightly more than $1 million. He will be held in the Clackamas County Jail until his sentencing hearing Aug. 12.

Landers said she had been prepared for a sentencing hearing this week, but Gunter's attorney in Portland, Dan Lorenz, requested more time to prepare, leading to the August date.

"My intent is to ask the court to sentence Mr. Gunter consecutively for most, if not all, of it," Landers said. "I will be requesting the judge give him a sentence that is very, very lengthy."

A consecutive sentence means that the time served for each charge would be added to the other sentences, rather than served concurrently.

During the trial, which began July 8, two Starbucks' employees — the woman who was kidnapped and raped and the second woman employee in the store the morning of the incident — were called to testify.

"It was very, very traumatic for them," Landers said.

Gunter testified in his own defense.

Gunter, for many years involved in the furniture business in Northeast Oregon, entered a Starbucks shop at 122nd Avenue and Sunnyside Road at about 6:30 a.m. Dec. 30, forced a female employee from the store as another clerk watched, and then later raped the clerk and left her on the side of a road.

Clackamas County detectives came to La Grande in late January looking for Gunter, in part because of tips received as a result of an ad in The Oregonian newspaper that included a sketch of the suspect and a description of his vehicle.

Gunter was arrested in La Grande with the assistance of La Grande Police officers. He was booked, and transported by detectives to Clackamas.

— T.L. Petersen