PRINCESS ANNE -- Four Somerset County teen-agers have been charged in a home invasion in which two University of Maryland Eastern Shore students were dragged from their beds at gunpoint, terrorized and sexually assaulted at their off-campus apartment early Monday.
The teen-agers, from Princess Anne, are being held on $500,000 bond each at Somerset County Detention Center. Charges include first-degree sexual assault and burglary.
The charges could bring prison terms of 20 years to life. Deandre Cotton, 16, Timothy Holbrook and Tremaine Waters, both 17, and DeShawn Burke, 18, await a preliminary hearing Dec. 28. All four -- including the three minors -- will be tried as adults.
The two women, both 20 and seniors at UMES, told Princess Anne police they were awakened about 2 a.m. Monday when someone kicked in the door of their second-floor apartment, which is about a half-mile from the UMES campus. They had lived in UMES dormitories until this semester.
Four men, two of them wearing masks, entered the two-bedroom apartment demanding money and drugs. Armed with a sawed-off shotgun and a handgun, they ransacked the place.
Dakeita Matheny, a 20-year-old junior from Prince George's County and a close friend of both women, said they called her by cellular phone Tuesday, as their parents drove them home.
"They had their parents come get them and they called from the road. They just wanted to get out," Matheny said. "As bad as it was, I just thank God it wasn't any worse. They could have been raped and killed."
According to Police Chief Russell Pecoraro, the assailants were looking for someone else.
"These girls were not the target. They were strictly victims who happened to be in the wrong place," Pecoraro said. "The suspects were looking for some guy who lives or lived in the area. But imagine the trauma these two girls went through."
During the 30-minute rampage, the women were ordered to take off their clothes as guns were placed to their heads, according to court records. Charging documents say that after assaulting the women, the four assailants took $120, a small bag of marijuana and identification cards, threatening to kill the women if police were called.
According to Pecoraro, all four were arrested Monday but investigators kept the incident quiet, hoping to find the man the teen-agers said they were looking for in the apartment.
Among those in the dark were university officials, who say they were informed mid-day Tuesday.
Yesterday, as students finished their final week of classes before final exams, few knew of the assault. While most said they felt relatively secure in dormitories at UMES, which maintains its own police force, some students complained that they had not been informed.
"This is ridiculous. I'm surprised they haven't sent out a memo or something," said Monica Williams, 19, a sophomore from Prince George's County. "Maybe they haven't told us because they don't want people to be scared."
University officials say they have little control and no jurisdiction over students who live in the many apartments near campus in Princess Anne. About 1,700 of 3,000 students live in dormitories, said Ronnie E. Holden, vice president for administrative affairs.
"On campus, we have a whole variety of security measures, including the campus police force, emergency phones and escort service," Holden said. "We have a crisis hot line and counseling services. Off campus, it's out of our jurisdiction. Fortunately, it seems to be an isolated incident."
Four female students who share two-bedroom units in B&W Apartments, where the assault occurred, complained yesterday that while off-campus living is cheaper and offers more freedom and privacy, they feel vulnerable. Most of the tenants in the complex are UMES students.
"My parents didn't want me to move off-campus because of security," said a 21-year-old Montgomery County woman who declined to give her name. "One problem we have is with break-ins whenever there's a school vacation. It's not UMES kids doing this, it's local kids who think we might have a little more than they do. This is one of the poorest counties in the state."
Princess Anne police say their extra attention to off-campus student apartments has decreased break-ins drastically. After investigating 23 break-ins over the 1997 Thanksgiving holiday, they say only one break-in was reported during the holiday last year and three this year.
University officials say they have arranged for the two women to return to campus to take final exams, but friends say both victims are considering transferring.
"I know I was thinking about moving off-campus for my senior year next year, but not now, not after what's happened," Matheny said. "I just hope the police have the right guys in jail."