TWO WOMEN testified yesterday to similar accounts of how a man in a white pickup truck drove each of them, on separate occasions, to Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia, then brutally raped them.
After hearing their testimonies, Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni held defendant Robert Palen, 39 - the most recent high-profile alleged Pennypack Park rapist - for trial on charges of rape, aggravated assault and related offenses.
One woman, 31, tearfully testified that a little after 7 p.m. Aug. 1, 2010, she was hanging on the corner of Disston Street and Torresdale Avenue in Tacony when Palen, whom she did not know, circled around her in a white "utility" pickup truck.
He then stopped, and she spoke to him. "He told me I was too pretty and I could get myself hurt," she said. "He told me there were a lot of weirdos out there."
She said they agreed "to exchange sexual favors," but he didn't have enough money on him to pay and had to get more cash. She got in his truck, and he drove to a Wawa store. She said when he returned to the truck from the store, his demeanor changed.
He was angry and wouldn't let her out of the truck, she said. He then drove to Pennypack Park.
Crying, the woman testified that in the park, he pulled her into a wooded area and hit her twice in the head. By a bench, "he pulled my pants down and raped me from behind,"she said. He hit her some more and told her not to leave until he left, she said.
The second woman, 27, testified that about midnight Aug. 3, 2011, she had walked to a 7-Eleven on Torresdale Avenue in Tacony to get cigarettes. After she came out of the store, she tried calling her mother on her cellphone, but couldn't because her phone needed to be charged.
Palen, whom she did not know, was outside of his white pickup truck and told her she could charge her phone in his truck, she said. She said she didn't get any "bad vibes" from him, so she got in his truck, and as they were talking, Palen offered her a ride home and she accepted, she said.
At some point in their conversation, she said she realized he wasn't driving her home, and they were at Pennypack Park.
"I said, 'What the hell are we doing here?' " she testified. She said he dragged her "through woods that led right to a bench, and then he beat me up and raped me."
He forced her to perform oral sex on him, then tore off her clothes and assaulted her, she said.
"Right after that, his exact words were, 'B----, don't f---ing move,' " she testified. But she ran away as soon as he left, she said.
"I was covered with blood, and I was really, really scared," she testified. She said she had not agreed to any sexual arrangement with him and did not give him consent to touch her.
She went to a hospital, had a rape kit done, and reported the rape to police. Assistant District Attorney Lindsay Kenney said DNA from this woman's rape kit matched Palen's DNA.
Palen allegedly raped a third woman in the city, a couple weeks after the 31-year-old victim was allegedly assaulted, but she has since died.
In December, Palen was extradited to Philadelphia from Wisconsin, where he was sentenced in August to a little more than eight years in prison for sexually assaulting a woman in Madison.