Authorities address 'misstatements' in alleged Capitol Heights student rape

Published: Dec. 9, 2015 at 11:37 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 17, 2015 at 11:37 PM CST
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - In an unprecedented move to shed new light on an alleged sexual assault case involving a Montgomery student, city leaders and investigators have released more details in the investigation and sought to clarify rumors that have sparked widespread concern from students and parents.

Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange held a briefing with those involved in the case and members of the media at City Hall Wednesday to provide a timeline of events and discuss inaccuracies that have been reported in the news and on social media.

Present at the meeting were detectives working the case, including Major W.S. Simmons who is the division commander of the Montgomery Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division. He was joined by MPD Chief Ernest Finley, Montgomery Public Safety Director Chris Murphy, Jannah Bailey with Child Protect, Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Margaret Allen and Montgomery County Deputy District Attorney Seth Gowan.

Major Simmons says MPD was notified on November 30, 2015 about the possible sexual assault of a Capitol Heights Middle School student. While it reportedly occurred during school hours, it did not happen on school grounds, contrary to previous claims.

The alleged incident happened between 1-1:30 p.m. and the victim was brought to the Criminal Investigations Division at 2 p.m. Police worked to get in touch with his mother but when they could not reach her by phone, they sent someone to get her. It was at that point, that she arrived at the Criminal Investigations Division. An interview with Child Protect was set up for the following morning and conducted. Major Simmons slammed claims that there was a delay in action by authorities.

"There's been allegations that there was a lapse in the time that we took up the case and when we started taking action on the case which is just simply not true," he said. "We were notified by the school and immediately responded to the school, took the child to our office and started the process like we do with every other case. This case is being worked with the same level of importance as we do every case. Nothing is being done differently."

Since the incident, police say the victim's mother has consulted with a local woman who is acting as an advocate for the family and providing advice. Her name is Karen Jones and she spoke about the case during the Montgomery County Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

Police say her actions and social media posts pertaining to the case have hindered and endangered the investigation and future prosecution. When police have tried to meet with the victim's mother to schedule and discuss different things, Major Simmons says her advocate stepped in and told detectives to leave the property.

Investigators also discussed the victim's changing account of what happened. At first, he named a fellow student and then there were reports that two adult men raped the 13-year-old boy in a ditch behind the school.

"The story that we were originally given during the interview was that it was another student. He gave a description of the student, down to the shirt he was wearing, and a name. We tracked that down. There was only one child in that school with that name and he's accounted for, video evidence. He was in class during that time which made that impossible," Simmons said. "Now it's changed to two grown men that the child didn't know who lured him there. We also have video evidence that does not support what's being said, of the child at school and the child when he left school that doesn't support the story as well."

Jannah Bailey, executive director of Child Protect, a nonprofit organization based in Montgomery that assists law enforcement with forensic interviews in an effort to discern the truth when there are allegations of abuse, says a forensic interview was conducted with the victim the next day. Bailey says statements have been made that a staff member at Child Protect told the victim's family that police were not doing a good job in handling and investigating the case and that it was suggested to the family that they should get someone in the community to help them.

"That is where this advocate came up. All of that is not true at all. We do over 400 cases a year and we work alongside investigators at CID. Nothing has been done any differently than any other case that we see," she said. "We really have lost focus of the child and what's best for them."

Mayor Strange stressed that there is no evidence to support that two adult males were involved in the alleged assault. City Hall and the school system have been inundated with calls from concerned parents regarding the case.

"That's a false statement," he said. "Based on everything we know, there's nothing to do with any adults."

Another interview with the victim will be conducted to clarify any discrepancies, which Child Protect says is not uncommon.  There are fears that his statements will have been tainted by the involvement of the third party. Investigators say they will keep going on the case until they can find out exactly what happened.

"The District Attorney's Office, at the end of the day, is going to treat it just like every other case. We're going to get their completed work from the police department. We're going to be reviewing it. We'll work with them and if there's follow up that needs to be done, we will continue to do that. As we see it right now, it's an active and ongoing investigation and the police department is doing everything they always do in a case like this," said Deputy District Attorney Seth Gowan.

MPS Superintendent Margaret Allen applauded school officials for following the proper procedures in immediately reporting the alleged incident to police. Since then, she says MPS has tried to let MPD and Child Protect conduct their investigation without interjecting any additional information.

"We are on the same page with them as far as wanting what's best for the child. That is most important to us," she said.

Allen says there have been rumors from Capitol Heights students that they are frightened after hearing news reports about the alleged incident. MPS has worked to better secure the school, speaking with principals and teachers to make certain that things are in order and that children feel safe in the building, she added.

Major Simmons says there's nothing that leads police to believe that the crime did occur at this point, other than the child's statement, but the investigation is ongoing.

"In this case, we have a lot of things that indicate things aren't the way they were told to us. The video doesn't match. The child's statements changed. There were a lot of things coming out through a third party source that aren't the same. There's a lot of inconsistencies. We still don't write off the case because of that. We still investigate the case all the way through until we can conclude one way or the other," he said. "We're going to do what's best for this child."

The mayor hoped that the briefing provided a synopsis of the findings in the investigation thus far. He expects additional information in the case to be released next week.

"We wanted to do everything we possibly could to get the factual situation laid out so that could be reported and the rumors and misstatements that are out there could be modified to the extent that we don't have adult males going around in our schools," he added. "And that the school system has procedures in place to uncover this kind of scenario and we have this partnership of these agencies to get to the bottom of this because it is about that child and that child. We need to everything we can to confirm the allegation or not confirm the allegation and then we deal with whatever the facts say."

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