5 held for gang rape of girl, 7
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New Jersey - Two men and three teenage boys were charged on Saturday with gang-raping a seven-year-old girl who was sold by her 15-year-old stepsister during a party at a crime-ridden apartment building in the state's capital, police said.
Details of the arrests were announced at a Saturday evening news conference outside police headquarters. Police Director Irving Bradley said detectives had been working around the clock since the crime was reported March 28.
"We did get a lot of co-operation from the community, which helped break this case," Bradley said.
Those arrested included Gregory Joseph Leary, 20, in custody since Friday, when he was charged with having sex with the 15-year-old. The other four are Timear Lewis, 19, and boys ages 13, 14 and 17. Each was charged with aggravated sexual assault and child endangerment.
Prosecutors likely would seek to try all of them as adults, Mercer County prosecutor Joseph Bocchini said.
The suspects, who were to be assigned public defenders, were being held Saturday night and couldn't be contacted for comment. There was no telephone listing for Lewis; a telephone for a G. Leary had been disconnected.
The case shocked residents of the gritty Rowan Towers apartment building, where three of those arrested live, police Captain Joseph Juniak said.
Building management has stepped up its security presence there and promised additional safety measures. Residents have expressed scepticism that the apartments would become safer.
Police say the 15-year-old girl went to a party with some men at Rowan Towers on March 28 and the younger girl tagged along because she was worried about her stepsister's safety. They say the 15-year-old sold sex to men and boys there, then took money to let them touch the younger girl. They say the touching turned to forcible sex as at least seven men raped the seven-year-old.
Additional arrests are expected, police said.
Before Saturday's arrest announcement, the 15-year-old had been charged with promoting prostitution, aggravated sexual assault and other crimes. Police have not released her name, and she remained in juvenile detention Saturday night.
Mayor Doug Palmer, who met with the seven-year-old girl and her family in his office on Thursday, described their ordeal as a "torment."
"They're in a safe place right now," he said. "I would ask that the community embrace this family - they are going through a lot."
Palmer gave the girl a stuffed bunny rabbit for Easter. He said the family is getting counselling and indicated it may be permanently relocated away from the city.
He credited the police force for its hard work but said the investigation into "this heinous crime" isn't done.
"We're not finished because everyone who is responsible is still not arrested," he said. "The police will not rest until we get every individual who was involved in this."
Police earlier in the week urged residents to come forward, but neighbours said they were scared of retaliation from gangs that prowl the streets if they spoke up.
Rapists 'the problem'
Rowan Towers sits on a stretch of West State Street near downtown Trenton and is surrounded by blocks of abandoned, boarded-up homes.
City Councilwoman Annette Lartique, who represents the area where the crime occurred, said the high-rise has been plagued by crime.
Besides the parents and the seven-year-old, Palmer met with a grandmother, two younger children and other relatives.
"They were understandably upset," Palmer said. "They felt like they were victims. They said, 'People are blaming us.' We need to stop pointing fingers at the family members. These rapists are the problem, not the family."
Of the girl's parents, the woman is the mother of the seven-year-old girl, and the man is the father of the 15-year-old. They two have toddlers together.
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