A week of fear, humiliation

Ordeal: Though a rape charge is dropped, a Howard County teen says the experience `ruined' his life.

April 24, 2004|By Gus G. Sentementes and Tricia Bishop | Gus G. Sentementes and Tricia Bishop,SUN STAFF

An article in Saturday's editions of The Sun about a rape allegation at Mount Hebron High School in Howard County described a man speaking on behalf of the girl as her stepfather. In fact, he has adopted her.

The story was as horrible as a principal - especially one at a competitive suburban high school - is ever likely to hear.

A 15-year-old girl said she was led into the boys' bathroom of Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City by three teen-age boys and sexually assaulted in the middle of the school day April 15.

"She was shaken," recalled Principal Veronica Bohn. She consoled the girl, who appeared traumatized.

Police moved in swiftly, setting in motion a chain of events that would result in the three boys' spending six days in jail and roil the high school campus for a week.

The three accused teens were pulled out of class about 1:30 p.m., questioned and arrested by police officers. They were handcuffed and whisked by police to the Southern District headquarters in Scaggsville, where they sat for hours in holding cells without food or water, awaiting interrogation.

"The handcuffs were tight and cold," said Demitris Myrick, 18, one of the accused, adding that officers led them out of school just as the day was ending - a humiliating experience.

"Being led out of school in handcuffs isn't cool," Myrick said in an interview at his home yesterday, sitting on a couch while his 4-year-old twin sisters played with dolls at his feet.

But soon after the teens had been arrested, witnesses began coming forward to defend them.

Police began confronting the girl with inconsistencies in her story as investigators worked around the clock.

Prosecutors, growing doubtful of the girl's accusations, agreed Wednesday to release the teens.

Later that day, the girl recanted her story, according to prosecutors, who said they would drop the charges in the coming days.

"A lot of questions just went unanswered," said Kim Myrick, Demitris' uncle, who said he believes school administrators should be held accountable for the events. "They were so quick to rush to judgment. It's just a shame."

Reached at home last night, the girl's stepfather adamantly contested that she recanted her story. "She never admitted to him not raping her," he said. The Sun is not identifying the girl or her stepfather because she is a juvenile.

A spokesman for the state's attorney's office declined to comment on the father's statements but referred to statements made by Howard County State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone, who said that the evidence in the case no longer supported the allegations.

The rape charges that Myrick and the other two teens faced were severe, carrying possible life sentences. "I was nervous. I thought I was going to go to jail for the rest of my life for something I didn't do," Myrick said.

Although two of the teens were juveniles, because police charged them all as adults, media outlets - including The Sun - printed and broadcast their names.

For the three Ellicott City teens - Myrick, Christopher S. Berry, 16, and Roderick D. Rudolph, 15 - their lives had been turned upside down.

"It's ruined my life for the time being," Myrick said. "My reputation has just gone down the toilet."

(Berry and Rudolph, and their parents, did not respond yesterday to requests to be interviewed.)

School officials and police said the girl's allegations had to be taken seriously. Bohn said she called the girl's parents right away, and both came to school immediately and took the girl to Howard County General Hospital for a medical examination. It found physical evidence of forcible rape, police charging documents said.

By then, the teens were in custody.

At the police station, the teens had their clothes taken away and replaced with paper uniforms before being placed in tiny holding cells that Myrick described as smelling of urine.

Myrick spent the next 12 hours in jail with no water and no food. "I was scared. I didn't know what was going on," he said. After midnight, two investigators took him into another room and questioned him for about an hour, taking DNA and pubic hair samples. "I was thinking in my head, `I hope I don't get in trouble,'" Myrick said. "I know I didn't do anything wrong. I knew she was lying."

In one-on-one interviews with investigators, the teens - who had not talked to one another since first being called to the office - provided similar accounts of what had happened in the handicapped stall of a boys' bathroom.

In the charging documents, which were filed with the District Court commissioner early on April 16, an immediate and obvious discrepancy was revealed: The girl told investigators she had engaged in sex acts with one boy, but two boys admitted that they had committed sex acts with her.

Media uproar

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