Prosecutors will ask an Alexandria, Virginia, judge to sentence Jesse Bjerke, 39, to 80 years in prison for the 2016 rape of a lifeguard at a deserted swimming pool in Alexandria, and a similar attack of a young woman in Fairfax County in 2014.
In October 2019, Bjerke pleaded guilty to six felonies, including rape, abduction with intent to defile and three counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, in the 2016 Labor Day weekend attack at a pool on South Pickett Street.
In March 2020, after a judge approved a change of venue to Alexandria, Bjerke pleaded no contest and was found guilty of raping a woman in Fairfax County on Aug. 1, 2014.
Alexandria prosecutors said Bjerke should never walk the streets again, and that “his carefully curated ‘nice guy image,’ masked the true evil within.'”
In a sentencing recommendation, prosecutors Jessica Smith and Jessica Edwardson said the rapes were “calculated, premeditated, unspeakable acts” and that Bjerke “spent a significant amount of time plotting to inflict pain, power, and control over women, and importantly, to evade responsibility for doing so.”
Prosecutors said in both cases “he used the same act — that of a nice, harmless guy,” to gain the trust of the women.
In the 2016 attack, Bjerke told the lifeguard he had left his flip-flops at the pool a day earlier. She helped him search for them in a pump room where found items were stored.
When she turned to tell Bjerke the shoes were not there, he pointed a gun at her face. As she screamed, he said, “Stop screaming, or I’ll shoot you in the mouth.” He then raped her.
Both women fell victim to Bjerke’s playacting, according to prosecutors.
“It was not until they each turned around and looked down the barrel of a gun and into the defendant’s eyes that [they] realized it was all a ruse. A person this skilled at concealing the evil within cannot ever be trusted to rejoin society,” prosecutors wrote.
Bjerke’s plea agreement in 2019 specified prosecutors would not seek a life sentence. Sentencing guidelines suggest a sentence in the range of 29 to 46 years.
Beyond removing Bjerke from society to avoid his hurting anyone else, prosecutors said he deserved punishment for the 10 violent crimes and asked that he receive a sentence of 300 years, but serve 80 years in prison.
“The defendant took from [the women] intangible aspects of their lives that they will never recover. In addition to the physical injuries he inflicted upon them, they lost their sense of safety, security and trust,” prosecutors said.
In the 2019 conviction, police in Alexandria — for the first time — ran DNA through public genealogical databases and developed a family tree based on known DNA profiles, which pointed to Bjerke as a suspect. After Bjerke was arrested, a buccal swab of his DNA matched DNA found on the victim.