The jury has reached a split verdict, in the trial of a truck driver, charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting an Erie woman last October.

After about five hours of deliberating, the jury found Jerome Keyes, 58, guilty of rape and simple assault, and not guilty of ten other counts, including kidnapping and felony aggravated assault.

The verdict comes after three days of graphic testimony, which wrapped up late Thursday afternoon, after the defendant took the stand to testify in his own defense.

“She was never kidnapped.  She was never raped,” Keyes testified.  “I never put a hand on that woman.”

On October 17, 2018, Keyes is accused of raping a 38-year-old woman in his semi-truck, in a parking lot off of West 12th and Chestnut Streets.

While on the stand, Keyes testified that he lives in Mississippi and made a trip to Erie to visit family and friends and to go fishing.

On the night in question, Keyes testified that he was driving in the area of East 7th and Parade Streets to check out a boat that he had seen earlier, when the alleged victim waived him down and jumped in his truck.

“She jumped in the truck and she sat down,” said Keyes.  “She surprised me when she popped open the door.”

But the woman told the jury an entirely different story, a horrid account of what happened to her.

The woman testified she was walking home from the Shell gas station on East 6th and Parade Streets, when a man came up behind her and put a sharp object to her neck.  

“I feared for my life in that moment, because I thought it was a knife,” the woman testified.  “I put my hands up and decided to walk towards his truck.”

The woman said she was then forced to strip, and the suspect made her get into his semi-truck. 

From there, the woman said she was taken to a parking lot off of West 12th and Chestnut Streets, where she was repeatedly raped and beaten. 
 

“He told me I was not going to make it alive out of his truck,” the woman testified.  “Every time I went to cry, I was smacked or hit or punched.”

The woman said she eventually escaped, and ran to a nearby apartment, only after she was stabbed in her Achilles tendon. 

The victim testified she suffers from several medical issues because of the assault, to this day.

But Keyes denied laying a hand on her, and said that her ankle injury was a scrape.
 

“I didn’t stab her,” said Keyes.  “She lied.”

During closing arguments, Keyes’ lawyer Jason Checque said that the woman lied throughout the trial.

“She’s trying to lead you away from the truth,” said Checque.  “We're saying that she got into the truck willingly, and that she was doing it for money."

Meanwhile, Erie County Assistant District Attorney Erin Connelly told the jurors that the evidence proves Keyes’ guilt.

“She was in that truck for almost 40 minutes, not knowing if she was going to survive,” said Connelly.  “He took a lot from her that night.  He knows what he did.  It’s time for justice.”

Judge John J. Mead presided over this trial.