Vicious Assault Shakes Texas Town
By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. <-ASSHOLE
Published: March 8, 2011
CLEVELAND, Tex. — The police investigation began shortly after Thanksgiving, when an elementary school student alerted a teacher to a lurid cellphone video that included one of her classmates.
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Michael Stravato for The New York Times
The exterior of an abandoned trailer where an 11-year-old girl was assaulted. Eighteen suspects were held.
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Michael Stravato for The New York Times
The interior of the trailer.
The video led the police to an abandoned trailer, more evidence and, eventually, to a roundup over the last month of 18 young men and teenage boys on charges of participating in the gang rape of an 11-year-old girl in the abandoned trailer home, the authorities said.
Five suspects are students at Cleveland High School, including two members of the basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. A few of the others have criminal records, from selling drugs to robbery and, in one case, manslaughter. The suspects range in age from middle schoolers to a 27-year-old.
The case has rocked this East Texas community to its core and left many residents in the working-class neighborhood where the attack took place with unanswered questions. Among them is, if the allegations are proved, how could their young men have been drawn into such an act? “It’s just destroyed our community,” said Sheila Harrison, 48, a hospital worker who says she knows several of the defendants. “These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.”
The attack’s details remained unclear. The police have declined to discuss their inquiry because it is continuing. The whereabouts of the victim and her mother were not made public.
The allegations first came to light just after Thanksgiving, when a child who knows the victim told a teacher she had seen a videotape of the attack on a cellphone, said Stacey Gatlin, a spokeswoman for the Cleveland Independent School District.
The school district’s security department interviewed the girl, 11, who is a student at Cleveland Middle School, and her mother. The security department determined that a rape had taken place, but not on school property, and then handed the matter over to the police, Ms. Gatlin said.
On Dec. 9, the police obtained a search warrant to go through a house on Travis Street and a nearby trailer that had been abandoned for at least two years. An affidavit filed to support the search warrant said the girl had been forced to have sex with several men in both places on Nov. 28 and cited pictures and videos as proof, according to The Houston Chronicle.
The affidavit said the assault started after a 19-year-old boy invited the victim to ride around in his car. He took her to a house on Travis Street where one of the other men charged, also 19, lived. There the girl was ordered to disrobe and was sexually assaulted by several boys in the bedroom and bathroom. She was told she would be beaten if she did not comply, the affidavit said. A relative of one of the suspects arrived, and the group fled through a back window. They then went to the abandoned mobile home, where the assaults continued. Some of those present recorded the sexual acts on their telephones, and these later were shown among students.
Residents in the neighborhood where the abandoned trailer stands — known as the Quarters — said the victim had been visiting various friends there for months. They said she dressed older than her age, wearing makeup and fashions more appropriate to a woman in her 20s. She would hang out with teenage boys at a playground, some said.
“Where was her mother? What was her mother thinking?” said Ms. Harrison, one of a handful of neighbors who would speak on the record. “How can you have an 11-year-old child missing down in the Quarters?”
Cleveland, a town of 9,000, lies about 50 miles northeast of Houston in the pine country, near the picturesque Sam Houston National Forest.
The town’s economy has always rested on timber, cattle, farming and oil. But there are pockets of poverty, and in the neighborhood where the assault occurred, well-kept homes sit beside boarded-up houses and others with deteriorating facades.
The abandoned trailer where the assault took place is full of trash and has a blue tarp hanging from the front. Inside there is a filthy sofa, a disconnected stove in the middle of the living room, a broken stereo and some forlorn Christmas decorations. A copy of the search warrant was on a counter in the kitchen next to some abandoned family pictures.
The arrests have left many wondering who will be taken into custody next. Churches have held prayer services for the victim. The students who were arrested have not returned to school, and it is unclear if they ever will. Ms. Gatlin said the girl had been transferred to another district. “It’s devastating, and it’s really tearing our community apart,” she said. “I really wish that this could end in a better light.”
Girl's sex assault rocks Cleveland
11-year-old is in foster care and 17 men and boys face charges. The list of suspects could grow
By CINDY HORSWELL <- ASSHOLE
March 7, 2011, 11:17AM
Mayra Beltran Chronicle
Police say some of the sexual assaults of an 11-year-old girl occurred at this abandoned trailer house in a part of Cleveland called "the Hood."
CLEVELAND - All Maria wanted was to see her 11-year-old daughter.
Weeks ago, the girl had been hushed away to a "safe house" for her own protection - after the phone calls started, and the disturbing, sexually explicit videos began surfacing in this town of 9,000 about 50 miles north of downtown Houston.
Seventeen men and boys, including a middle school student and adults in their 20s, have been charged with sexually assaulting Maria's daughter, a sixth-grader, in a dingy trailer. That number could grow to 28.
Last week, while hospitalized for an illness, Maria finally received a brief visit from the girl.
"My daughter was crying and crying and hugging on me," Maria said. "She didn't want to leave. She misses her family and wants to come home."
But the family's tiny gray wooden home off a long, dark forested road on the outskirts of town is no longer considered safe for the 11-year-old. Child Protective Services put the girl in a foster home for her protection and restricted her family from even speaking to her, the family said.
Local officials say the attack has devastated this close-knit community, leaving many to wonder who will be charged next. There's talk that a star athlete at Cleveland High School was seen sexually assaulting the girl on the video. The son of a local school board member is involved, too.
Someone has been making phone calls to Maria's house. Police fear they're coming from people seeking retribution.
"They keep calling and asking for her," said Maria, whose last name is not being printed to protect her daughter's identity. "They don't believe me when I say she's not here and cuss us out. They're trying to find her. This is the time when she needs us the most."
Cleveland, a town whose history dates to 1836, is nestled near the picturesque Sam Houston National Forest. Timber, cattle, farming and oil fuel the town's economy.
Normally a quiet place, the community recently has been in an uproar over a looming election to recall three City Council members accused of mismanagement.
When the sex assault story broke wide open in recent weeks, the town gained further unwanted attention. Boo fricken' hoo.
The editor of the Cleveland Advocate, Vanesa Brashier, who has kept her hand on the pulse of this community, said, “Feelings are raw as these things keep happening and then there’s no time to heal. Our town has been in the spotlight too much lately.”
Some Cleveland residents, like Kisha Williams, are critical of the 11-year-old’s parents.
“Where were they when this girl was seen wandering at all hours with no supervision and pretending to be much older?” she asked.
Several churches have organized special prayer events for the town.
Carter Williams, 64, seated at a small card table playing dominoes inside a local grocery, does not think laying blame is the right response to the sex assault.
“This is a praying time for the young men and the young girl,” Williams said. “Seems like everyone in this whole town needs some God in their life.”
Inside a trailer
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, retiree Joe Harrison noticed an 11-year-old girl as he walked past an abandoned trailer to play dominoes with friends in what locals call "the Hood."
He thought the girl looked older than her years with her long hair and dark makeup. She was standing near the aging brown trailer, which was partially covered by a blue tarp and had remained unoccupied since Hurricane Ike except for an occasional drug user who would sneak inside to smoke crack.
Later, Harrison heard loud music blaring from that same trailer on Ross Street. But he thought the girl had already been picked up by her mother. He never realized anything horrible might have happened until weeks later when the arrests started.
"I have a granddaughter that age and can't imagine anything like that happening to her," he said. "Whoever did this should pay for it."
Cleveland police say the 11-year-old was sexually assaulted inside that trailer and a small blue house with white trim around the corner.
The assaults happened Nov. 28 after a 19-year-old with prior drug convictions persuaded the young girl to leave her house and go "riding around" with him and two other young men, according to a Cleveland police officer's sworn statement.
They first went to the blue house, where she was ordered to disrobe. If she refused, the statement said, she was warned other girls would beat her up and she would never get a ride back home.
Soon she was having sex with multiple young men there, the statement said. Someone used a phone to invite four more men, who soon arrived.
Not long afterward, the group fled through a back window when they heard a relative of one of the teens arriving at the blue house. The 11-year-old left behind her bra and panties as the group moved to the nearby abandoned trailer, where the assaults continued. As the men had sex with the girl, others used their cell phones to take photographs and video, police said.
Familiar faces in video
Over the next two days, the recordings went viral around school. One student who recognized the girl and several of the young men, including star athletes, in the videos, alerted school authorities and triggered the investigation.
So far, 17 suspects have been charged, ranging in age from a middle-schooler to a 27-year-old. Seven are high school students, including two members of Cleveland's state-ranked basketball team. Another is the 21-year-old son of a school board member. Several have prior criminal records for drug sales, aggravated robbery and manslaughter.
James D. Evans III, an attorney who represents three of the defendants, insists: "This is not a case of a child who was enslaved or taken advantage of."
Investigators note an 11-year-old can never legally give consent.
On her Facebook page, the 11-year-old tells whomever she befriends that she's aware people have probably heard about her, but she doesn't care what they think.
"If you dislike me, deal with it," she wrote.
Sometimes she comes across like a little girl, such as when she talks of her special talent for making "weird sound effects" and "running in circles" to overcome nervousness.
But she also makes flamboyant statements about drinking, smoking and sex. Yet her vulnerability pokes through the tough veneer as she tells of "being hurt many times," where she "settled for less" and "let people take advantage" and "walk all over" her. She vows to learn from her mistakes.
While Maria said she never saw any of her daughter's Internet postings, she believes her 11-year-old might have been seeking misguided attention.
Earlier signs of trouble
Shortly before the video recordings surfaced at school, there was a sign of trouble. Her daughter had borrowed her father's cell phone, and afterward Maria discovered a lurid photo of a young man that had been e-mailed to it.
"I asked about it, and she said she knew nothing. So I told her I was taking it to the police, and I did," Maria said. "They still have the phone. And I've not heard anything back."
Meanwhile, not only has the girl been forced from the town where she was born, but authorities also want the entire family to relocate.
"The police think we may be in danger. Because if they can't get my 11-year-old, they might take out their revenge on us," said Maria, as extra patrols are making rounds down her street.
Neither Cleveland police nor Child Protective Services would discuss the safety issue or a closed-door hearing with the family held Friday in Coldspring. State District Judge Elizabeth Coker said a gag order has been issued.
Struggle for children
Maria's two older daughters, who are in advanced placement classes and the band, and her 9-year-old son have all cried about being uprooted. However, the 11-year-old, who was withdrawn from Cleveland schools when the videos surfaced, is enrolled in gifted and talented classes at her new school and is "doing fine," Maria said.
Yet life for the children has been a struggle, as their father cannot find carpentry work and their mother earns very little by cleaning houses. The mortgage holder recently notified the family that they were being evicted but gave them extra time because of the family crisis.
The stress has grown so intense, the 16-year-old daughter said, that her parents considered separating, while the 11-year-old is having regrets about following through with the case.
But Maria wants those who stole her daughter's childhood prosecuted. She said her daughter was threatened with beatings or death if she refused to cooperate.
"These guys knew she was in middle school," Maria said. "You could tell that whenever you talked to her. She still loves stuffed bears."
Cleveland residents still reeling after gang rape of girl, 11 | Houston & Texas News | Chron.com - Houston Chronicle
To be honest, she looks older than she really is," says Brandi Foster. When asked how old the girl appears to be, Foster continues, "I don't know, I don't know what age. 15, 16?"Source
'cause it's ok to gangrape someone who's 15?
From the facebook of one of these pieces of scum:
Dem bitkhe5 put me on da new5 hoe5 5till re5pect mi mind
Anyone else following this?
I'm totally stunned. In story after story there's references to how the girl dressed, her makeup, her facebook, how she looked older than her age etc while the men are minimized and referred to as boys or young. People blame her parents like any unaccompanied female out without a protective male relative is ripe for raping because men just can't help themselves.