Schenectady County

Women in rape, kidnap case say they feared for their lives

Heading through Rotterdam, the woman didn’t feel right.

Heading through Rotterdam, the woman didn’t feel right.

She worked as a prostitute on Schenectady streets, and this older man, who hardly looked threatening, wanted to take her to the town and become her latest client.

But as the pickup truck kept going, toward Princetown, she told him to stop. She wanted to get out.

His response was to lock her door, she said.

“He tells her, ‘You’re not going anywhere,’ ” prosecutor Michele Schettino told a Schenectady County Court jury this afternoon in the kidnapping and rape trial of Joseph Kruppenbacher.

“With a knife to her throat, he speeds up, accelerating, going further and faster. She’s trying to get away, struggling, trying to get away from this man.”

She eventually got the door open and jumped out of the moving vehicle, the prosecutor said.

Kruppenbacher, 63, is standing trial this week on accusations based on five separate women. He is accused of taking them, all prostitutes, from Schenectady and into Rotterdam, threatening them with knives, threatening to kill and rape them, all in early 2008.

Three of the women came forward immediately after the alleged attacks, two others later.

Prosecutors say they have physical evidence linking the witnesses and Kruppenbacher to his truck and the crime scenes, Schettino said. Fake nails from one of the women were found in Kruppenbacher’s truck and at the scene. His blood was also found on her clothing, also left behind, prosecutors said.

Kruppenbacher’s attorney, Todd G. Monahan, admitted that his client was one of their clients. But he said the only evidence of crimes comes from them, not any of the physical evidence.

The women, he said, have credibility issues. Some have criminal records.

“You are going to have one and only one question to ask yourself,” Monahan told the jury. “ ‘Do I believe [these women]’ … I submit to you that answer will be a resounding ‘no.’ ”

Kruppenbacher, of Albany, remains free on bail. The trial before acting Schenectady County Court Judge Polly Hoye is expected to take two weeks.

In her opening, Schettino went through each of the five women’s accounts.

The first one, the one who jumped from the truck on Jan. 13, 2008, reported the incident immediately after jumping, Schettino said.

The man, she told police, threatened to kill her and “feed her to the pigs.” At least one other women would report a similar phrase later. A cut could be seen where the knife touched her throat, the prosecutor said.

That woman, Schettino said, also attempted to put the word out among other prostitutes in Schenectady that this man was dangerous.

But on Feb. 5, he allegedly struck again. Another woman, who had dealt with Kruppenbacher peacefully before, went with him to Rotterdam, Schettino said, but near the Price Chopper on Altamont Avenue, she ended up fleeing as Kruppenbacher drove after her, threatening to kill her. She reported the incident immediately.

Police zeroed in on Kruppenbacher but didn’t have enough to charge him.

Then, on April 29, Kruppenbacher allegedly took another woman to a gravel pit off Route 7. When she wanted out, Schettino said, Kruppenbacher sped up. When he stopped, she was able to get out, but he went after her, ripping off her clothes and attempting to rape her, Schettino said. At one point, he allegedly put his hand over her mouth and she bit him.

She said she eventually saw an opening and ran. Naked from the waist down, the woman happened upon a state trooper nearby. Kruppenbacher was arrested later that night.

It was her fake fingernails that were found in Kruppenbacher’s truck and at the gravel pit, Schettino said.

After his arrest, two other women came forward. Kruppenbacher faces a total of 27 counts.

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