A Louisa County man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for the 2018 robbery and sexual assault of a then-University of Virginia student.
Jowell Travis Legendre, 31, was arrested in September 2018 after he attacked a woman at the intersection of 14th Street and Grady Avenue, striking her in the face before sexually assaulting her and taking several of her belongings.
Friday, after about five hours of deliberation, a Charlottesville Circuit Court jury in found Legendre guilty of object sexual penetration, forcible sodomy, robbery and credit card larceny. Though he faced a maximum of three life sentences and 10 years in prison, the jury decided to recommend a collective sentence of 25 years.
Prior his sentencing, the survivor of Legendre’s assault testified to the impact the attack had on her mental and physical health.
She received significant damage to one of her teeth, which she said remains visibly damaged. She has since graduated from UVa and moved away, but she said the trauma of that night lingers as well as the knowledge that a complete stranger would attack her.
“I do fear that if the tooth never heals permanently it will be a constant reminder of the trauma I endured,” she said.
September 19, 2018 was the last day of Yom Kippur, a holiday she celebrates that will now also be a reminder of the attack.
Legendre, dressed in a plain blue button-up shirt, sat with his head in hands and refused to make eye contact as she testified.
The survivor’s father also testified, sharing the impact his daughter’s ordeal had on her family.
Recounting the night of the attack, he remembers his traumatized daughter reassuring him over the phone that it could have been worse. After mulling on that phrase, he said his mind kept coming back to Hannah Graham, a UVa student who went missing in 2014 and was later found murdered.
“I’m not going to say [Legendre] was preying like an animal because he’s not an animal, he’s a person who made a conscious decision to stalk and assault my daughter,” he said.
During closing argument, Charlottesville Commonwealth’s Attorney Joe Platania urged the jurors to consider both the savageness of the crime and Legendre’s criminal history. Reading from a lengthy list of convictions spanning 17 years, he said the only gaps in crimes appeared when Legendre was locked up.
“When he is at liberty and he’s walking among the community, he is committing crimes,” Platania told the jury. “Like [the survivor] said, I don’t envy you having to make this decision but when deciding a sentence consider how long she will live with this trauma.”
Three of the four charges carried minimum sentences of five years and maximums of life in prison. Legendre’s defense attorney urged the jurors to sentence at the lowest end of the guidelines, which would total 16 years.
When the jury returned with their sentence, Legendre was not present in the courtroom.
Legendre’s sentence will be formalized at 10:30 a.m. on Jan. 30 in Charlottesville Circuit Court.