Derrick Cook sat still and silent in court yesterday as his mother shrieked and his victims described how, in 2008, he wrecked their lives with his violent sexual attacks in Northern Liberties - when he was just 15 years old.
Common Pleas Judge Benjamin Lerner likened Cook's crimes to murder, but rejected the prosecutor's request to hand him a de facto life sentence of 80 to 160 years behind bars. He's too young for such a sentence, the judge reasoned.
Instead, he sentenced Cook, 17, to 20 to 45 years in state prison, five years of reporting probation and a lifetime of having to register as a sex offender.
"This is a form of murder. The two victims in this case have died in some degree or another," Lerner said. "The only difference between a true murder case and a case like this is we can hope and pray for some revival . . . some healing, as long as there is breath in these two women's bodies."
Cook pleaded guilty in November to raping and assaulting one woman and sexually assaulting and attempting to kill the other.
Cook apologized in a statement read by his court-appointed attorney, Alice Meehan, while his mother and maternal grandparents asked the judge to have mercy on him due to a childhood scarred by a mentally ill mother addicted to cocaine.
"I blame a lot on myself. Just being selfish. I hope that, mentally, my son gets himself together," said Keisha Newman, Cook's mother.
His first victim, who was 23 when Cook raped and beat her in an alley in August 2008, was not in court but sent a statement to be read by Assistant District Attorney Namratha Ravikant.
The woman said that the fallout from the attack includes the loss of two jobs and her home, and that she suffers from sleeplessness, nightmares and panic attacks.
"There's not an hour of my waking life that I don't think about how the defendant's actions have affected my life," said the woman, who has since moved to Pittsburgh.
Ravikant said Cook told the woman he had a gun and forced her into an alley on Orkney Street, where he repeatedly raped her, banged her head on rocks, used her cell phone to take pictures of her naked body and forced her to say that she loved him.
In November 2008, while Cook was waiting to be sentenced as a juvenile for exposing himself to another woman, the prosecutor said, he cut off his electronic monitoring bracelet and went to the home of a 45-year-old neighbor who paid him on occasion to do odd jobs around her house.
She let Cook into her 4th Street home because he told her that he was locked out of his home. He repaid her by forcing her to perform oral sex on him, repeatedly stabbing her, breaking her neck and leaving her near death in a pool of blood.
After leaving the woman's home, Ravikant said, Cook returned to wash her blood off his hands.
Yesterday, the woman told the court how much she regretted opening her door "to give him shelter."
The woman survived only because a man walking his dog heard her moans for help through her open door.
She described how she is in debt because she can no longer work as a graphic artist due to damage Cook inflicted on her, including loss of strength in her left arm and hand, a damaged eye that has been operated on five times and painful nerve damage that has resulted in 90 percent of her skin surface being numb to the touch.
"These disabilities compromise everything I do," said the woman, who to date has had 10 surgeries.