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Woman says Englewood hair salon operator raped, threatened to kill her

Photo Credit: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

SPECIAL REPORT: An Englewood hair salon operator’s former lover told jurors in Hackensack that he raped her in his house and then got drunk and began throwing up, giving her the opportunity to escape.

“He told me to bring him a bucket, so I did,” the 49-year-old mother of two testified during the first day in the trial of Sisa Butu, 53. “When he started vomiting I saw my chance, grabbed my clothes, and ran next door.

“The man there let me in, closed the door and turned off the porch light while I called first the police and then my husband.”

The lawyer for Butu insisted that his client has had to live with a false accusation for four years and now finally has a chance to clear his name.

“The crime alleges that he terrorized and assaulted the victim,” defense attorney Michael Robbins told jurors. “We feel the same.”

The woman, who now lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, testified that she met Butu — also known as James McDowell — on a ski trip during a “rocky” period in her marriage.

After a hotel closing party, he knocked on her door and she invited him in, she said.

“We talked, we kissed, and then we had sex,” she said.

The relationship continued after the trip, the woman said, with her visiting his Tryon Avenue home now and then. She drove from Woodbridge, where she lived at the time, she said, adding that Butu cooked and they drank, watched videos and had sex.

They eventually stopped calling one another, the woman testified.

She returned one day in September 2010, she said, because Butu had called a few days earlier, saying he wasn’t feeling well after breaking some bones in a fall. He asked her to come by, she said.

After having lunch and going to his home, the woman said, she told Butu that she had to go because her husband was expecting her.

He got angry, she said, and threatened to kill her and himself if she tried to leave.

He then grabbed a .357 Magnum from a cabinet, fired a shot into the ceiling and forced her to disrobe, lie on the couch and spread her legs, the woman said. When he was unable to do anything with her there, Butu took her upstairs and raped her, she testified, sobbing softly.

“If you don’t, that gun is coming out again,” she said Butuhe told her.

“My stomach just turned, it was all in a knot,” the woman, now crying, told the 11 men and four women on the jury. Finally, she said, the effects of drinking nearly a full bottle of cognac made him sick.

Local media initially reported what came next as a standoff, but an exclusive report in CLIFFVIEW PILOT explained that Butu was passed out as a tactical squad surrounded his house, tried calling him for a few hours and then finally tossed in gas cannisters to flush him out.

Specially trained Bergen County Police officers ordered Butu to the ground, put his hands behind his back and handcuffed him.

Although the woman didn’t sustain “severe personal injury,” she was traumatized, abused and “in fear for her life,” said Assistant Bergen County Prosecutor Catherine Fantuzzi, chief of the sex crimes unit.

Robbins, in turn, emphasized that there are “two sides to every story” and attacked the woman’s credibility.

He said she admitted to police that she had a prior relationship with Butu but told them “they only had sex once, on a ski trip.”

Robbins is expected to continue cross-examining the woman tomorrow morning.

Butu once ran a popular chain of hair braiding salons in Brooklyn but now distributes hair care products under the name SBXtreme “for the multicultural hair care market,” according to company information.

He faces another indictment in Bergen County for assaulting his son in Englewood last November, causing “bodily injury with a deadly weapon.” He has prior arrests for perjury, being a fugitive, and child endangerment.

He faces 15 separate counts in the trial, including seven of aggravated sexual assault, or rape.

STORY / PHOTO: Mary K. Miraglia, CLIFFVIEW PILOT Courthouse Reporter

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