DIA rape victim returns to airport, talks exclusively to 7NEWS about attack, Noel Bertrand

Woman tells others not to be afraid to speak up

DENVER - The victim of a brutal sexual assault at Denver International Airport returned to the airport after her attacker was sentenced.

Noel Bertrand, who was convicted of rape, was sentenced Friday to spend 6 years to life in prison. The former Marine was found guilty in September of raping a woman at the airport just after midnight on April 12, 2011.

The victim agreed to be interviewed on camera, but asked 7NEWS not to use her name. She wants others to hear her story.

Nearly two years after the assault, she said it is still difficult to be at DIA.

"It's hard for me. I'm still going to have to travel from victim to victor," she said.

The woman spoke to 7NEWS reporter Russell Haythorn as she walked to security before her flight home to the Pacific Northwest. Although it was a symbolic ending to the story, she says learning to trust again is a struggle.

"You rely on one another. You rely on the security of the airport. You rely on the person-to-person contact and, in my case, that didn't happen until the end, but I'm very thankful it did," she said.

A surveillance camera caught the then 22-year-old woman walking with Bertrand on the night of the assault. The two struck up a conversation after she missed her flight.

"But the situation turned very quickly," she recalled.

During the trial, Bertrand's defense attorney argued that this was a case of "rough foreplay" and that the woman willingly participated until they were caught having sex in a public place.

During the trial, the prosecution showed photos of the woman's black eye.

"Does that look like it was fun?" Deputy District Attorney Isabell Pallares asked.

"This was not some sort of kinky sex act. This was a brutal, aggressive attack," Pallares argued.

Two Frontier Airlines mechanics told 7NEWS that they witnessed the attack from outside on the tarmac.

"To me it looked like someone was trying to stuff something into a suitcase," said Mark Adams.

Adams and Kris Musil said it was hard to see exactly what was going on from the tarmac. Then the men saw the victim's hair.

"I saw the hair waving and that is when I yelled at Mark and said, 'We got to go,'" said Musil.

"Once I saw hair or what I thought was hair, then that was a person that was up there getting hurt," said Adams.

"Those men, I owe them so much gratitude," the woman said as she walked through the airport to security.

In addition to Bertrand's prison time, he will also have to go through a sex offender program.

"That's very important to me that he gets the help he needs," the woman said.

"He was given a 6 year sentence but I'm here to tell you that's essentially a life sentence in Colorado because Mr. Bertrand, based on principle, will not go into therapy sessions and admit that he did this, which means they won't release him," said defense attorney Wadi Muhaisen after the sentencing hearing concluded.

The victim said she encourages all women to come forward if they are victimized.

"There are a lot of women who are afraid to come out about it and it defers their healing process," she said.

The victim's own process is ongoing, but she says it is moving forward with the help of her faith and her family.

"The chapter is closing, I can go on to school now and enjoy life," she said.