Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault
NORFOLK, Va. – Charles Edward Cunningham Jr., a 71-year-old Norfolk man with a lengthy and violent criminal history, was sentenced Friday to 27 active years in prison for raping a Norfolk woman, whom he had previously offered to help, after she denied him a sexual favor.
Mr. Cunningham and the victim had been acquainted since 2018. He at times offered the woman, who was experiencing homelessness, food and money, and on more than one occasion Mr. Cunningham traded that food and money for sex acts with the victim.
In 2021, the victim contacted Mr. Cunningham because she and her fiancé needed a place to stay. Mr. Cunningham offered to show her his apartment because he had a room he was willing to rent out to the couple. On the evening of Feb. 8, 2021, the victim, who was by herself because her fiancé was out of town, met Mr. Cunningham at a bus stop in Ocean View. From there, the two walked to Mr. Cunningham's Seaview Avenue apartment.
Inside the apartment, the two talked for about an hour before Mr. Cunningham demanded sex. The victim initially agreed and began to undress, but she soon changed her mind and attempted to leave. Mr. Cunningham grabbed her to prevent her from leaving, struck her numerous times, and strangled her with both hands until she collapsed to the floor. After confiscating her phone and allowing her to get up, Mr. Cunningham took the victim to his bedroom and raped her while armed with a pocketknife.
The victim was unable to safely leave the apartment until early the following morning when Mr. Cunningham allowed her to go. She then walked to a nearby business to see a family member before taking the bus to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. At the hospital, she provided a statement to detectives and was seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. The woman's examination revealed bruising and scratches to her hands, arms, chest and throat.
On Aug. 3, 2022, a Norfolk jury found Mr. Cunningham guilty of abduction with intent to defile, rape, and forcible sodomy, as well as two counts of assault and battery.
On Friday, Judge Robert B. Rigney sentenced Mr. Cunningham to serve 27 active years in prison. The details of Mr. Cunningham’s sentence include 49 years in prison, with 40 years suspended, for abduction; 49 years in prison, with 40 suspended, for rape; 49 years in prison, with 40 suspended, for sodomy; and one suspended year in jail for each count of assault and battery. Mr. Cunningham's suspended sentences are conditioned upon uniform good behavior, sex offender treatment, and attending anger management while in custody, and one year of supervised probation if he is released from prison.
Mr. Cunningham has a lengthy criminal history including convictions of robbery in 1975, unlawful wounding in 1979, assault on a woman in 1983, robbery in 1987, assault in 1988, two counts of assault on a woman in 1990, two counts of extortion in 1992, assault and sexual battery in 2008, and assault in 2013.
"Charles Cunningham predated and victimized one of our most vulnerable citizens, raping her mercilessly when she came to him desperate for help," said Commonwealth's Attorney Ramin Fatehi. "This was a difficult case to try, but we tried it. It was a difficult case for the jury, but they rightly convicted. Now we have held Mr. Cunningham accountable. Mr. Cunningham will almost certainly spend the rest of his life in prison, where he will not be able to harm this victim ever again."
Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney William S. Maydosz prosecuted Mr. Cunningham's case on behalf of the Commonwealth.
If you have or someone you love has fallen victim to crime, including but not limited to sexual assault, resources are available at the Norfolk Family Justice Center. For more information, please visit norfolkfjc.org, call 757-330-0376 or stop by the NFJC inside the Park Place Multi-Services Center at 606 W. 29th St., between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays. If you are in crisis, call the 24/7 hotline by dialing 757-251-0144. In an emergency, please call 911.