BOCA RATON (CBS4) –For more than two decades, John McKenzie ran a property management business, learned to fly and provided a good home for his family in Palm Beach County.
But in 2010, DNA exposed a secret he kept hidden.
Last summer, Boca Raton Police arrested McKenzie for the March 1989 sexual assault of a woman living in an apartment complex near the Florida Atlantic University campus. A jury convicted him of the attack earlier this month.
Nearly 22 years to the day of the attack, a judge sentenced McKenzie to life in prison and called McKenzie “every woman’s nightmare.”
“You are the nightmare of every parent that has a daughter,” said Judge Jeffrey Colbath. “You are the boogeyman.”
Two of McKenzie’s victims attended the hearing and described their horrific ordeals at his hands to the judge.
A woman named Jody — the victim in the Boca Raton attack — described how McKenzie assaulted her at knife point in her apartment, entering through an unlocked door while she made lunch.
Jody was too emotional to read the statement she prepared in court so a victim advocate read it for her. As the advocate read it, Jody stared at McKenzie.
“You left me wondering all these years if you had exposed me to a disease that could have ended my life prematurely,” Jody wrote. “I have suffered greatly because of your actions that day. With your sentencing, I feel that those fears and unrest can finally start to heal.”
Jody asked for McKenzie to receive a life sentence, saying that was the only way to ensure the public’s safety.
The other victim described her encounter with McKenzie. It was 1978 and she was 13 years old. She was walking to school one morning in Illinois when McKenzie got out of his car holding a knife and grabbed her.
“He dragged me to his car and told me if I screamed he would kill me right there,” the woman said. “I was only 13 and very frail and very frightened.”
She said McKenzie drove her around and finally parked his car in an alley. She told the judge that McKenzie assaulted her multiple times and threatened her life.
“As I looked into his cold evil eyes I felt the horrible feeling of hell on earth and thought that the devil himself was sitting with me in that car,” she said.
After the attack, McKenzie moved to the front seat of his car and drank a beer, the woman said. She pleaded with him to spare her life and he did. She said McKenzie was caught but soon fled. He was caught again and sentenced to 10-20 years in prison. However, he only served 5 and half years behind bars.
“He didn’t serve even half that time,” she said. “I’m still appalled and confused how someone so evil was allowed to run the streets again.”
According to a sentencing memorandum written by prosecutors with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, McKenzie was also convicted in Illinois in 1986 for possessing child pornography. Just 7 months later, McKenzie was released on parole. Soon after, he was headed to South Florida.
In December 2003, McKenzie was convicted of a federal charge of making a false statement to a firearms dealer. He served 6 months in prison. He also provided a DNA sample to authorities. It was included in the national DNA database for testing.
In 2010, the FBI contacted the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office to inform them of the match in the 1989 Boca Raton case. A few weeks later, McKenzie was arrested.
Boca Raton Police continue to look into unsolved cases in their city to see if McKenzie is a suspect. Police arrested him last month for an unsolved sexual attack in 1987. However, McKenzie’s lawyer said the statute of limitations has run out on the case and McKenzie will not face charges in the attack.
During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, McKenzie sat quietly and did not address the judge.
His wife, Karen, did. She said the man depicted in the charges is not the man she married. She said she stands by her husband.
“I see John as a loving, gentle, kind and hardworking person,” she said. “He has provided a good home for me and my son.”
She also apologized to the victims and said her husband has not been a violent offender for decades.
“I humbly ask the court to consider the tragic consequences a life sentence would pose on John’s family,” she said. “We will not have the hope of reuniting with our loved one.”
Judge Colbath was not swayed. He called McKenzie’s actions “heinous” and said he deserved to “be punished and punished severely” before announcing the life sentence.
Jody said the judge did the right thing.
“It will be justice where he’s going to be but I still have to live with the memories,” she said.