CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4)– The victim in an attempted sexual assault, who was tied up and fought back before escaping her attacker, said she is satisfied with the 90-year-to-life sentence handed down for repeat sex offender Johnny Dewayne Harris. Harris was sentenced in Arapahoe County Court on Friday.
Vanessa Ursini shared her story and the impact it has had on her and he family, asking that a judge sentence her attacker to the rest of her life behind bars.
“Now your honor, I live in fear and I hate it,” she said while addressing the court.
In September, an Arapahoe County jury found Harris, 49, guilty on all charges related to a sexual assault of a Littleton woman, identified as Vanessa Ursini.
In July 2018, Ursini was walking her dog on the Platte River trail when a man wrapped a rope around her neck, pulled her off a trail and tied her hands and feet together before assaulting her.
With her wounds still healing, she shared her story of escape just one day later.
“When he stopped I was like, maybe I can get away still, maybe I can do this, it’s not my time to die yet,” she told CBS4’s Karen Morfitt in 2018.
The fight that she had that day, was more than visible a year later in the court room, after her attacker Johnny Dewayne Harris was found guilty she returned to speak at his sentencing.
Her request and those of her family and friends was that he get the maximum sentence possible. The judge gave him a sentence of 90 years to life.
In September, he was convicted of first-degree kidnapping, attempted sexual assault (deadly weapon), attempted sexual assault (serious bodily injury), attempted sexual assault, (use of force/violence), first-degree assault (strangulation), unlawful sexual contact and two sentence enhancers for violent crime. Harris is a registered sex offender.
“It’s a whole different part of moving on now and putting this behind me it won’t ever go away but now we can at least start to move on,” Ursini said.
In her corner in the courtroom and the months following the attack, has been her husband, her family, and friends old and new.
Including the man who found her on that trail and a woman who knows exactly what Ursini has been left to deal with.
Dianne Hammer was attacked by Harris in her bookstore in Denver just a few months before.
“He’s serving prison right now my case and that feels incredibly important to me and I wanted her to so badly to have,” Hammer said.
Alone both women found the fight inside them to escape Harris with their lives. Standing together now they’ve found a new strength to keep them moving forward.
“She is a part of my family and will be for always,” Ursini said.
In July, Harris was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to assault and attempted sexual assault in relation to a sexual assault in Denver. In March 2018, Harris offered a woman a ride, then pulled into a parking lot off of Florida Avenue near the South Platte River where he threatened her with a knife, physically assaulted her, and sexually assaulted her after she tried to escape. He then drove to a convenience store, where she escaped. The next day, Hammer was attacked by Harris.
The 90-years-to-life sentence in Arapahoe County will be served consecutively to the 25-year sentence Harris received in Denver.