A homeless man who kidnapped, bound, and sexually assaulted a woman in Gulfport two years ago now has a place to live for the rest of his life: prison.
Andrew Clinton Cruse Jr., 56, of Gulfport, was found guilty of Kidnapping, Forcible Sexual Intercourse, and Aggravated Assault by a Harrison County jury Thursday afternoon. Circuit Court Judge Chris Schmidt then imposed a life sentence on all three counts, without the possibility of parole.
In February 2015, Cruse's victim was found running naked into the Lowe's parking lot, just off Hwy 49, with her hands bound behind her back. People in the parking lot rushed to cover her with coats and called police.
The woman told officers she had escaped from Cruse's nearby campsite where she had been held for the last two days.
"When she made it to the campsite he struck her in the head with a hammer, fracturing her skull. Once the defendant incapacitated the victim he began to tie her up with duct tape and zip ties," said ADA Mitch Owen, who prosecuted the case along with ADA Patti Simpson.
Once subdued, prosecutors said Cruse removed his victim's clothes and sexually assaulted her over the course of 24 hours. When he finally fell asleep, the woman was able to open the tent zipper her with her teeth and run for help.
Shortly after finding the woman, Gulfport Police tracked down Cruse less than a mile away heading in the opposite direction of Lowe's.
At trial, members of the Mississippi Crime Lab testified that the victim's blood was on defendant's blue jeans when he was arrested. A treating physician from Memorial Hospital also testified that the victim was suffering from a fractured skull when she was admitted to the hospital.
Cruse took the stand and said the whole encounter was consensual.
"The victim was courageous throughout this entire process and has now received the justice she deserves. The community members who were present that day made crucial contributions by aiding the victim at the time of her escape and by presenting their testimony to the jury," said ADA Mitch Owen.
Prosecutors said Cruse was indicted as a violent habitual offender, which means he will be required to serve his entire life sentence without the possibility of parole. Cruse's ten previous felony convictions include Aggravated Assault, Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Uttering Forgery.