‘I forgive him’: Survivor gets justice decades after rape, kidnapping in Rankin Co.

Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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RANKIN CO., Miss. (WLBT) - A Rankin County rape victim gets justice after the man who raped her more than 30 years ago was found guilty on Wednesday.

After deliberating for more than an hour, a jury found Oklahoma native Daniel Ray Skaggs guilty of kidnapping and rape.

For more than three decades, Benji Kirkbride has lived with the fact that Skaggs was still a free man.

She said she tried not to think about it, but at the same time, she couldn’t go a day without thinking about it.

Kirkbride said this guilty verdict now brings her closure.

“I think I let out the biggest sigh of relief or breath that I’ve ever taken,” Kirkbride expressed. “I forgive him, but I know that he did it. And I’m just so glad that today, Lisa and I got our justice.”

It all dates back to August of 1990. Skaggs hid inside Kirkbride’s van and forced her to drive, after putting a knife to her throat.

He raped her, then walked off into a wooded area on I-20 in Brandon.

Years passed by and the case went cold, until now.

“I just could tell by the look on his face that he thought he probably got away with this, and he did for a long time,” said Kirkbride. “I’m sure that we’re not the only ones. I’m sure there are a whole lot more that never came forward or that haven’t been connected to him yet, but I don’t believe for a minute that it’s just three of four of us, there’s a whole lot more.”

Prosecutors say DNA evidence from a rape kit helped link the Oklahoma man to the crime.

“I don’t think the DNA is as new as the investigative genealogy which we used to get Daniel Ray Skaggs,” said Ryan Berry, Assistant District Attorney. “It’s been used in the Golden State killer and other cases to help bring justice and once we saw that was being used, we said why can’t we do this? Why can’t Rankin County try this and see if we can get a resolution to it.”

For Skaggs, This isn’t the first time he has been convicted of rape.

In June of 1977, he was found guilty of aggravated rape and second-degree rape in Texas.

Prosecutors said Skaggs could be connected to even more crimes in Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia.

“This is a defendant who raped women in several states beginning in the 1970′s all the way through the 90′s,” said Bubba Bramlett, District Attorney. “Today, we made sure he goes to prison for the rest of his life.”

“I just want to tell anybody that if somebody does you wrong, rapes you, please please, I don’t care how humiliating it is, it’s worth the call to 911,” said Kirkbride. “Let the professionals take it from there. It may take a while, like me, it’s been almost 33 years, but they got it done big time.”

Skaggs was Sentenced as a habitual offender since he’s been convicted of rape before.

Rankin County Circuit Court Judge Dewey K. Arthur sentenced Skaggs to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the rape and kidnapping charges.

The sentences will run concurrently.

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