By Beth Lawrence
A Whittier man already registered as a sex offender is now jailed for allegedly raping a Jackson County woman.
Clifford Jason Keller, 41, of Golden Lane was arrested at his place of work in Cherokee on Oct. 13 for felony first-degree forcible rape, felony first-degree forcible sex offense and misdemeanor false imprisonment, said Major Shannon Queen of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office.
The attack occurred in the victim’s home in the overnight hours of Oct. 10 and throughout the day on Oct. 11, according to warrants obtained by the Herald.
The victim reported the rape to Jackson County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 12.
She told investigators that she fell asleep in her residence that Saturday night and Keller, who was also there fell asleep at some point.
“She was awoken by Clifford Keller tying her to the futon using shoe strings,” the search warrant application reads.
Keller threatened her with a knife and said, “We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” the victim stated.
Keller then allegedly took off the victim’s clothes and began sexually assaulting her. During that time, he recorded video of her on his cell phone.
She told investigators that Keller held her captive all day that Sunday and into the evening and kept control of her cell phone. The woman finally fell asleep that evening and woke Monday to find Keller had left her home.
Most sexual assaults occur at the hands of someone the victim already knows.
“In our experience, the following statistics from Rape Abuse and Incest National Network tend to hold true in regards to the victims we have worked with: 39 percent of rapes are committed by an acquaintance, 33 percent by a current or former partner, 19.5 percent by a stranger, six percent by more than one person or unknown and 2.5 percent non-spouse relative,” said Jenifer Turner-Lynn assistant director of REACH of Macon County, the agency working with local sexual assault survivors.
The application for the search warrant requested permission to search Keller’s home at Golden Eagle Motel in Whittier, his 2002 Acura, and his person for evidence related to the rape and his cell phone: texts, calls and videos for evidence of the rape as well as drug deals. It also requests Keller be required to submit a DNA sample by cheek swab and pubic hairs as evidence.
Keller was already listed on the North Carolina Sex Offender and Public Protection Registry for a 2010 attack. He served 10 months at Piedmont Correctional Institute for a felony indecent liberties with a child conviction in Orange County and was released in 2012.
In an ideal world men would be taught self-restraint, Turner-Lynn said.
“We believe that there needs to be a shift in our conversation in order to have a shift in our culture, and believe that the only person that can truly prevent rape is the rapist,” she said. “However, we do encourage risk reduction which can include everything from bystander intervention to self-defense classes, but we do not believe in supporting the notion that risk reduction can always prevent rape and that victims can often do everything ‘right’ and still be raped.”
In the aftermath of a sexual assault, victims in Jackson County do have means to seek justice and rebuild their lives.
For the time being, REACH continues to handle rape and sexual assault cases for Jackson County. REACH helps survivors navigate the medical and court systems. REACH can arrange an anonymous rape kit exam free of charge if survivors are reluctant to consult law enforcement.
“It’s preferable for a victim to seek medical attention as soon as possible, do not shower or change clothing,” Turner-Lynn said. “However, the kit can be done several days following an assault even if you have taken a shower.”
REACH maintains a 24-hour call hotline 586-8969, 369-5544 and a text service; text “reach” to 20121.
Keller is being held in the Jackson County Detention Center in lieu of a $200,000 bond.