Phila.'s 'Jogging Rapist' again denied parole

Police mug shot from 1979 of William Gray, the jogging rapist.

William J. Gray, "the Jogging Rapist" who sexually assaulted 16 girls under age 18 in Olney and Northeast Philadelphia during a self-described "raping spree" in 1979, has been denied parole.

It's the 10th time that the state has refused parole to Gray, 71, who is serving a sentence of 20 to 50 years in the State Correctional Institution at Waymart, near Scranton. Gray pleaded guilty to multiple counts of rape and assault in 1980.

The Inquirer, which in June published a series of articles on the Jogging Rapist and his bid to get out of prison, has obtained a copy of a letter sent from the state Office of the Victim Advocate to one of his victims, Susanne Worsham, announcing the denial of parole. Another victim of Gray's who did not want to be identified said she received the same letter over the weekend.

The letter to Worsham, dated Aug. 6, reads, "We are writing to inform you that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole has refused parole and has ordered the inmate to serve the remainder of his sentence," which would end Dec. 12, 2029.

The letter goes on to say that Gray has the right to ask for parole again one year from now.

"I'm feeling great, feeling relieved," Worsham, a 47-year-old registered nurse in Ocala, Fla., said in telephone interview Monday. "Tears came to my eyes."

Worsham said she had stayed up late nights trying to compose the most compelling possible letter to the parole board asking that Gray be kept behind bars.

It may have had an effect.

On Tuesday night, the parole board released a statement of parole denial, calling Gray a "risk to the community."

It also said the state Department of Corrections had given Gray a "negative recommendation."

The statement also cited "reports, evaluations and assessments" that weighed against Gray.

In the Inquirer series, Worsham recounted in exacting detail how Gray raped her behind a row of houses in Olney when she was 12. She also spoke of confronting Gray in prison in 2002, demanding to know: "Do you have a clue what 20 minutes with you did to my life?"

While the parole denial was a relief, Worsham said she understands that she may have to "hear from the state next year saying Gray wants parole again."

Worsham added: "This may not be final for me until Gray dies."

The subject of an unprecedented manhunt spearheaded by a 50-man police task force, Gray, a Northeast plumber and welder, said in a prison interview this spring that if he were paroled, he would never offend again.

He said that being raped himself in prison helped him understand what his victims felt. Gray added that if he's released, he hopes to meet a "church lady" and live a quiet life.

As a prisoner, Gray cannot receive e-mails or telephone calls, and he could not be reached this week.

The detectives who furiously hunted Gray until he confessed expressed skepticism Tuesday about the convicted rapist's self-described rehabilitation.

"I'm just not convinced that he's a changed person," said John "Jack" Maxwell, now 69. He was a young lieutenant in 1979 who consulted with a psychic to help solve the rapes. He later rose to become chief of Philadelphia detectives.

Former Northeast Detectives Capt. Kenny Schwartz, Maxwell's boss and the architect of the hunt for the rapist, succinctly agreed.

"There's no cure for pedophilia - come on," Schwartz, now 76, said. "I never heard of it."

After her story appeared in the newspaper, Worsham said other women purporting to be Gray's victims got in touch.

At the same time, the victim who was contacted by The Inquirer said that Worsham's story inspired her to reach out to the parole board and implore its members not to release Gray.

The woman said she believes that what she said had an effect.

"It was empowering for me to play a part in keeping him behind bars so that he can't get out and potentially hurt another girl," she said Tuesday. "I'm thrilled and relieved beyond description.

"And I believe Gray is where he belongs."



Read the three-part series