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Victims testify about details of assaults

The three tell similar tales accusing Steven Lorenzo of drugging, torturing and sexually assaulting them.

By JENNIFER LIBERTO, Times Staff Writer
Published November 2, 2005

TAMPA - For five years he's been tormented by the memory of gray-blue eyes that seemed to dance with excitement.

He's 34, a Tampa native living in Massachusetts. And on Tuesday he confronted the past.

The Massachusetts bartender was among three victims who have testified in federal court that Steven Lorenzo drugged, tortured and sexually assaulted them.

"I never forgot his face. It haunts me every day," said the Massachusetts victim in court. His name is being withheld given the nature of the charges.

In all, seven victims are expected to testify against Lorenzo.

Lorenzo, 46, of 215 W Powhatan Ave. is charged with nine counts of distributing GHB, the "date rape" drug, to commit violent crimes. The nine charges include the drugging and torturing of Jason Galehouse, 26, of Sarasota and Michael Wachholtz, 26, of Tampa who disappeared the weekend of Dec. 19-20 in 2003.

So far, the victims' stories have been eerily similar.

All three said they met Lorenzo at a bar and either drove themselves or rode with Lorenzo to his house, voluntarily. All three were offered a drink at Lorenzo's house. All three mentioned that the drink tasted funny, bitter and not anything like alcohol. And all three woke up bound, terrified and in pain in the middle of a torture session before passing out again.

The bartender said he had been hog-tied with a "tourniquet noose" when assaulted in February 2000.

"Something in my head told me that my fear excited him," said the bartender who said he eventually got too exhausted to struggle against Lorenzo as the hours passed.

Another victim, a 27-year-old foreign exchange student from Madrid, Spain, had been studying at Saint Leo University in Dade City. At the time of the November 2001 assault, he said he woke up and felt an "electrical charge in my legs."

The third victim, a 27-year-old former Tampa resident who now lives in San Francisco, said he woke up screaming about two hours after he nodded off, because he had been tied down with plastic ties. He couldn't move. He said he struggled and screamed at Lorenzo for at least three hours during the assault in March 2003.

All said they felt their lives were in danger.

"All I could think is "God help me,' " said the San Francisco youth who did acknowledge on cross examination that he remembered kissing Lorenzo before he passed out. Yet, at that point, both were fully clothed.

Later he woke up naked, lying next to Lorenzo, in Lorenzo's bed.

The men from Massachusetts and Spain reported the assault to law enforcement immediately. The San Francisco man didn't report the incident until he heard about the disappearance of Galehouse and Wachholtz.

Crisis center nurse Mollie-Rae Jerman told the jury she remembered when the Spanish victim came in because she had never seen injuries like his, even though she has worked with hundreds of rape victims over the past seven years.

He had ink marks on his breast, a bruise on his head, red linear marks on his wrists and ankles, and burns and abrasion.

"It's the most bizarre case I've ever seen," Jerman said.

Another similarity: Each woke up naked, and no longer bound. They said that as they left, they pretended nothing had happened. They just got dressed and left. Neither the victims nor Lorenzo mentioned the assault. The victims all said they were scared of angering Lorenzo, so they moved slowly and acted calmly.

One took a shower and even ate some dinner before he left. One had Lorenzo drive him to the hospital to treat his knees, which were weak and painful. While at the hospital, the victim reported the assault.

"I just got in my car, closed the door. I was shaking," said the San Francisco man with a sniffle. "I didn't believe that this was happening to me. I knew it could happen. But I didn't believe it had happened to me."

Jennifer Liberto can be reached at 813 226-3403 or liberto@sptimes.com

[Last modified November 2, 2005, 00:46:18]


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