CCU rapes draw 25-year sentence

From WMBF News Partner

A Myrtle Beach man was sentenced to 25 years in jail this morning after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting three Coastal Carolina University students inside their residences on and off of the campus in 2011.

Matthew Phillip Elkins, 31, pleaded guilty in December to two counts of criminal sexual conduct and one count of assault with intent to commit criminal sexual conduct. Because his crime is most serious, he must serve 85 percent of his sentence and be listed on the sexual offenders list.

All three of his victims were in the courtroom, but one chose not to address the court.

One spoke quickly, but tearfully saying she is okay now.

The third victim was having such a hard time talking that her mother sprang from her seat and went to her side, lovingly patting her arm so she could speak to Circuit Judge Steven John.

The young girl said in June of 2011, her life was forever changed when she was the victim of a violent crime that no one should have to endure.

She said Elkins' crime against her was premeditated and carefully planned.

"This was calculated and scripted and was carried out in my home. This was supposed to be a safe place," she said, adding that she and her friends had decorated the residence and were happy to be sharing it.

She said Elkins stripped her of her innocence and her sense of safety that night and she fears the pain will never go away.

Until that night, she said, she was living the happiest years of her life as a student at Coastal Carolina University with lots of friends. She says she planned to go to summer school and was looking forward to a great summer at the beach, when Elkins destroyed it all. She says she lost her home, her college and her friends due to the assault.

She says she still has trouble sleeping and showering. She suffers with nightmares and is in constant fear that someone is lurking in her bedroom.

"It's hard to even go out alone," she said.

She said she wanted to see justice done, if there can even be justice for such a terrible crime. However, she said, she will feel better when she knows that Elkins is behind bars.

Assistant solicitor Martin Spratlin recounted the attacks for John. He said in the first attack, a young woman was awakened during the night when she saw a man in a blue hooded sweatshirt in her room. She screamed and he ran away, but not before leaving DNA on her bed sheet.

In the second case, the young woman had been out with friends, came home and went to bed.

She was awakened by a man telling her not to move or scream or she would get hurt. She said he made up a story about how he was looking for drugs and she was supposed to have them, but she said that was totally false.

Then he took pictures of her, assaulted her, forced her to take a shower, deposited DNA on her back and forced her to take a second shower before taking her cell phone, taking numbers from the phone and telling her if she told anyone what had happened he would kill her family members.

In the third incident, a young woman woke up to find Elkins standing at the foot of her bed. Spratlin said at first she thought it was a joke and told him to leave, but he pulled a knife and asked, "Is this a joke?"

She screamed and fought him off. A roommate in another room called police and reported her friend's screams. As Elkins fled he left behind his cell phone, which police used to track him. When they found him he had a black eye that he had sustained in the scuffle.

Senior assistant solicitor George DeBusk told John that the State had offered Elkins a plea deal for a number of reasons that he didn't explain.

Elkins public defender Thomas Floyd said Elkins moved from New Hampshire to this area about three years before the assault occurred. He was working two jobs, one at Logan's Roadhouse and one at the Homewood Grill. Elkins' prior record included only one offense, which involved buying alcohol for a minor, Floyd said.

Floyd said what was said about Elkins in the courtroom today wasn't the Elkins he had come to know as his lawyer.

At the time of the assault, he said, Elkins had gotten into running around, partying and using drugs.

He said from the time he met Elkins he has been remorseful and has always known that he would have to pay for his actions. Floyd asked John for a 20-year sentence. Elkins, who remained silent during the brief proceeding, has been in jail since Aug. 24, 2011. All three young women spoke at the bond hearing in November of 2011 pleading with Judge Thomas Cooper not to set a bond, and he complied.

Coastal Carolina University police chief David Roper and Lt. Rodney Sessions were in the courtroom today, along with Conway police detective Tyrone Williams and police officer Chris Williamson, but none of them spoke.

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