Security audit set at Mount Hebron

Rape allegation prompts check at the high school

`We will do a total analysis'

Police note discrepancy in stories of girl, suspects

Ellicott City

April 20, 2004|By Tricia Bishop, Gus G. Sentementes and Lisa Goldberg | Tricia Bishop, Gus G. Sentementes and Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Howard County school administrators will conduct a security audit at Mount Hebron High School today after three students were charged last week with raping a 15-year-old girl in a school bathroom.

"We will do a total analysis," said Howard schools security coordinator Steve Drummond, who will walk through the school with Principal Veronica Bohn to identify secluded places that may need regular monitoring - such as storage rooms, lavatories and empty auditoriums - and make sure surveillance procedures are being followed.

Meanwhile, attorneys representing the accused teen-agers cautioned against hasty judgment of their clients.

"Keep in mind, this is merely an allegation at this time. The investigation is not complete," said Carol A. Hanson, the district public defender for Howard and Carroll counties, who represents Christopher S. Berry, one of the accused.

Howard police acknowledged yesterday a discrepancy in the stories of the accused and that of the girl as detailed in charging documents.

"Oftentimes in a criminal investigation, information unfolds throughout the case, and information received from suspects and victims differ," said police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn. "That's not uncommon. That's what a trial is for."

At the same time, school officials said they are acting to ensure student safety. This could mean additional measures for the Ellicott City school, such as a video surveillance system or locking the bathrooms throughout the day to reduce the number of available trouble spots, a practice used at others schools, Drummond said.

Mount Hebron's safety practices include the presence of a campus police officer and a security assistant, who patrol the building and grounds.

The school is also one of the few in Howard to have a magnetic locking system, which automatically secures the building after hours - although it can't protect students from other students.

"You can't prepare to prevent rape in a way. If someone is bound and determined to do it, they will find a way," said school system spokeswoman Patti Caplan.

"This is such an isolated situation that we want to be careful. We're taking it very seriously and looking at all that we might do in the school, but we don't want to react as if this is an everyday occurrence. There has to be some balance here," Caplan said.

Mount Hebron will hold a community meeting to discuss the situation at the Ellicott City school at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The accused Ellicott City teens are Berry, 16, Roderick D. Rudolph, 15, and Demitris R. Myrick, 18.

Differing accounts

According to police charging documents, the girl told investigators the three teen-agers took her into a stall inside the boys' bathroom early Thursday afternoon, where one held her wrists, the second committed sexual acts with her and the third acted as a lookout.

A medical examination found physical trauma consistent with forcible rape, the documents said.

But there is a discrepancy in the charging document's account of investigators' interviews with the three charged teen-agers. Two suspects admitted to engaging in sexual acts with her, the charging documents showed, and one said he'd had sex with the girl twice before in the bathroom.

"I think when we work through the hysteria, when this all dies down, I think we'll see it for what it is - some kids fooling around in the bathroom," said Baltimore attorney Warren A. Brown, who represents Myrick.

Bail sought anew

The three teen-agers have each been charged with rape, sexual offense and conspiracy to commit a sexual offense and were being held at the Howard County Detention Center after District Judge Sue-Ellen Hantman last week denied bail for all three.

Hanson, the public defender, said she filed a motion yesterday asking for a hearing tomorrow for bail to be reconsidered for all defendants.

Baltimore attorney Lawrence B. Rosenberg, who represents Rudolph, said that he will argue at the bail review hearing that his client be released on a personal pledge, in the custody of his parents.

"I want to get him back in school, but they can't take him until this is over," he said.

"I think we're going to be successful," Rosenberg said of the case. "I don't see any reason why not."

Berry and Rudolph have preliminary hearings set for May 18, but a hearing date for Myrick has not been set, according to court records.

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