Thomas Richard Coburn (Tony Duncan/Johnson City Press)
A Kingsport man charged with raping two women in separate incidents reported within a half-mile stretch of West Market Street during the early morning of Sept. 27 had one of his rape charges increased to aggravated rape and his charges bound over to a grand jury Thursday in Washington County Sessions Court.
Thomas Richard Coburn, 46, 1924 Bloomingdale Road, No. 2, was charged with the first rape after a woman told police she was walking near the intersection of Wilson Avenue and Belmont Street at about 1:30 a.m. when a man grabbed her, threatened to kill her if she screamed, then forced her to a location near 503 West Market St., where he raped her.
On Monday, Coburn was charged with a second count of rape that alleged he attacked a second woman at about 4 a.m. as she walked near the intersection of West Market Street and University Parkway.
On Thursday, Judge Robert Lincoln granted Assistant District Attorney Michael Rasnake’s requests to amend the second rape charge to aggravated rape based on injuries suffered by the woman, and to charge Coburn with an additional offense of aggravated sexual battery for allegedly forcibly fondling her during the incident.
Because Coburn has exercised his right to have a preliminary hearing conducted within 10 days of the charges being filed against him, Rasnake told Lincoln he had planned to proceed with hearings on both of the cases Thursday but would have to reschedule one of the cases for early next week because the woman in that case had left the building minutes before the hearing began.
Lincoln rescheduled that case for Wednesday and Rasnake said he would try to get the woman to come back to court.
Lincoln denied Rasnake’s requested to bar the Johnson City Press and a local television news outlet from the hearing in order to prevent the women from being identified in news coverage of the case. Lincoln told Rasnake neither of the news organizations use the names or images of alleged rape victims and then issued specific instructions for them not to do so in Coburn’s cases.
The testimony of the woman who alleged Coburn attacked her near University Parkway testified she was walking home from a downtown nightclub at about 3:45 a.m. when she saw a man she did not know walking some distance away from her on the parkway. She said the man frightened her and she began walking faster, “almost jogging,” to increase the distance between them and using her cell phone to contact friends to come and pick her up.
As she neared the corner of University and West Market, she said the man approached her and asked her if she was all right. She said she told the man that she was all right and a friend was coming to pick her up.
She said she then walked in the opposite direction the man was walking, into a grassy area behind the guardrail at the intersection. She said she was still was using her phone when the man tackled her from behind, knocked her down and pushed her face into the ground.
She said she screamed and the man spoke to her harshly, using profanity and repeatedly telling her to shut up and not look at him as he sexually assaulted and raped her from behind.
She said two cars passed by them on University Parkway during the incident, frightening the man and causing him to lay on top of her so that she could not move and could not be seen from the street. When she saw the lights of a third car approaching, she said she told the man “they’re going to see you,” causing him to move enough for her to get away and run into the street.
She said she ran to a motorist stopped at the intersection, who called 911 and allowed her to stay with him until police arrived.
She said she and the motorist saw the man run toward the nearby park, where Coburn was arrested. She said officers then put her in a police car and placed a spotlight on Coburn, whom she identified as her attacker.
Coburn, who was listed on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Sexual Offender Registry prior to the incidents, remains in jail in lieu of $50,000 bonds set on each of the rape charges.