Jeffrey P. Fields. Photo by Centre County Correctional Institute
A Port Matilda man who pleaded guilty to raping four Penn State students over the course of seven years will spend at least three decades behind bars.
Centre County President Judge Pamela Ruest on Friday sentenced 38-year-old Jeffrey P. Fields to 29.5 to 61 years in state prison for the assaults committed between 2010 and 2017 in State College. The term is within sentencing guideline recommendations for aggravating circumstances.
“These were calculated, planned attacks on vulnerable women over a seven-year period,” Ruest said, adding that she believes, were it not for the investigative work of State College detectives, Fields would have attacked again.
Fields was arrested in July 2020 after detectives Stephen Bosak and Nicole Eckley used DNA evidence from rape kits collected at Mount Nittany Medical Center and genetic genealogy to connect him to the crimes. He pleaded guilty in March to 17 felony and misdemeanor accounts, including rape and sexual assault.
All four women reported being raped by an unknown male late at night outdoors in the Highlands neighborhood. Prior to the sentencing each woman, along with family members, submitted victim impact statements that described the immediate and enduring trauma suffered as a result of the assaults, including lasting anxiety, emotional and psychological pain and altered relationships.
Each of the victims attended Friday’s sentencing either in person or via Zoom. The woman identified as Victim 1 spoke in court to deliver her impact statement.
She was 20-years old when she was assaulted by Fields in the early morning hours of Aug. 22, 2010 while walking home to her apartment.
The assault, she said, left her feeling “damaged… and broken.”
“[Fields] changed my life to the core… You didn’t just hurt me. You hurt the people I love,” she said.
“I’ve done so much processing over the years, trying to make sense of something that can never make sense.”
All of the women described a compromised sense of security. One withdrew from school and has battled depression. Another said she was a devout Catholic but the attack has shaken her faith.
“I think what you saw today is that when crimes like this happen, when sexual assaults happen, it impacts not just the victims— certainly them in a profound way — but also everybody who cares about them, everybody who loves them, everybody who is in their network, roommates or a parent certainly are all impacted by that. It is a crime that has a ripple effect,” Anne Ard, executive director of Centre Safe, said after the sentencing.
Fields, who is now classified as a sexually violent predator, spoke at length on Friday as he detailed the frustrations with his job, depression and anger that he said were “bottled up.” He called the crimes “unspeakable, said he is “ashamed, disgusted and embarrassed,” and apologized multiple times to the victims.
“I was living two lives and taking my frustrations out in the worst possible way,” Fields said. “My words cannot express how truly sorry I am for the things I have done and made each of these women and their families go through…. I regret everything I have done. You did not deserve to go through this. I am so sorry.”
His wife, sister, father and mother also spoke on his behalf, each apologizing to the victims and saying Fields is a “changed man” since being incarcerated at the Centre County Correctional Facility and embracing Christianity.
Fields’ wife said he tried to be a good father and provider but was also often depressed, angry and exhibited obsessive-compulsive behaviors. She described him as “kind and gentle,” since he has been in jail.
“I would not have said that before,” she said.
In arguing for a standard range sentence that would have put Fields in prison for a minimum of about 21 years, defense attorney Steve Trialonas said his client did not attempt to overturn his denial of bail, did not file any pretrial motions and chose not to go to trial, which he said spared the victims from having to testify.
Deputy District Attorney Sean McGraw, who called Fields “an extreme danger to the public,” sought the maximum sentence allowed by law of 53 to 106 years in prison.
“It is not a commonly requested sentence,” McGraw said. “We felt that it would be appropriate however given the extraordinary impact on the victims as well as indicators that the condition and circumstances of the defendant would render him a danger to the public over a protracted period of time.”
He added, however, that he was glad to see a sentence within the aggravated range of the guidelines.
“Victims 1 through 4 are no longer Victims 1 through 4. They are survivors 1 through 4,” McGraw said. “They have endured this process that began over a decade ago with the most admirable fortitude, perseverance, dignity and grace. The commonwealth is most grateful to them. We feel the sentence of the court today, a sentence that was imposed in the aggravated range of the sentencing guidelines, validates their efforts over the years.”
Ard commended the “resilience” of each of the women.
“That one of them was able to speak in the courtroom, stand right in front of the person who did this to her and talk about the impact, that others were able to write victim impact statements, that parents were there, is extraordinary,” she said. “It speaks to their resilience and I think it speaks to the support that they’ve gotten from the systems that are here to support and care for them. I feel good about that.”
McGraw also praised the “exemplary work” by Bosak and Eckley.
After Victim 1 was assaulted in 2010, a 19-year-old woman got into what she thought was a taxi after leaving a party on Jan. 28, 2011. She was then punched in the face and raped by Fields.
About three months later, a 20-year-old woman was walking home when Fields dragged her behind a building to an area overgrown with bushes and trees where he raped and repeatedly hit her when she pleaded with him to stop.
Six years elapsed before the fourth victim, who was 19 at the time, was assaulted. She was walking home on July 16, 2017 when Fields grabbed her from behind, pushed her against a wall and raped her. She managed to escape during the assault.
DNA samples were sent to the Pennsylvania State Police lab for analysis following each assault and found to be a match in all four cases. The DNA profile also was uploaded to the FBI’s CODIS database.
In 2018, DNA samples were sent to private labs for genetic genealogy screening, with the profile being loaded into genealogical databases.
Through forensic genetic genealogical work, Bosak and Eckley developed the suspect’s family tree which “was identified as having a high likelihood of including” Fields, according to a criminal complaint.
After narrowing the search, Fields’ parents, whose only biological son together is Jeffrey Fields, provided DNA samples in June 2020 that an analyst told detectives showed they were the mother and father of the suspect with near 100% certainty. A DNA sample from Fields was then collected in July 2020.
“[Bosak and Eckley] should be commended at the highest level for bringing Jeffrey Fields to justice,” McGraw said.
The father of one victim wrote in an impact statement that Bosak, a 37-year veteran of the State College Police Department, pledged he would not retire until the perpetrator was brought to justice.
“It’s a big case,” Bosak said. “We had four women that we know were victimized. If he wasn’t stopped there were going to be more. It’s an important case and we couldn’t stop until it was done.”
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Jeffrey P. Fields. Photo by Centre County Correctional Institute