Local News

May 20, 2014

Charges pending against students in post-prom rape

Saturday night after the prom.

A cabin on the river.

Lots and lots of booze.

No adult supervision.

And an evening to remember will likely become a night of regret for over two dozen young people, many of whom may be charged with a crime.

The alleged rape of a 18-year-old female high school student the Saturday night of May 10 or 11 is being investigated by Gilmer County Sheriff’s Office detectives and the district attorney’s office, Sheriff Stacy Nicholson said Monday. The incident at 20 Edgewater Drive in Coosawattee River Resort primarily involved older teenagers from Calhoun High School who traveled here after their high school prom — and brought plenty of alcohol with them.

A student from Southeast Whitfield High School was also involved, Nicholson confirmed. The parents of one of the Calhoun students own the cabin, according to a sheriff’s office release.

‘Multiple guys’

The alleged female victim told a Calhoun Police Department officer Sunday afternoon she had been raped by “multiple guys” earlier that morning at the cabin, according to an incident report that includes 16 Calhoun High students and the Southeast student as participants or witnesses. The girl was not disclosing who took part in the alleged rape, saying only that around 2 a.m. she was “passed out” in an upstairs bathroom at the cabin.

The GBI crime lab is examining evidence from a sexual assault exam kit that includes DNA sampling, Nicholson said. An incident report defines what is alleged to have happened as “strongarm rape.” Three Calhoun High males and the Southeast male student are listed as suspects in the report.

“There was enough alcohol there to float a canoe down the Coosawattee River,” Nicholson said.

‘Evidence ... parents didn’t know’

“Right at 27 kids came over here (to Ellijay),” he continued. “It doesn’t look like it was planned to be that big a party, (and) there is some evidence her parents didn’t know it was going to be that big — it was supposed to be 6 to 8 girls — there was maybe one or two that were not drinking. The next day the victim, who had some injuries, was taken by her family to the Calhoun hospital, but they were not set up to do the sexual assault exam and she was brought to North Georgia Medical Center.”

The first week after the incident was spent by investigators interviewing the kids involved, he said, with more follow-up interviews this week.

“At this point we have taken some evidence that is being examined by the GBI and their crime lab, and we’re waiting for results,” Nicholson explained. “My detectives and I have had multiple discussions about this case, and with the district attorney. We’ve got help from the DA’s investigators and limited assistance of the GBI in interviewing folks. We want to wait until our forensics come back before we do anything more. No arrests have been made but several are pending.”

He said charges could range from the sexual assault itself to “numerous people” lying to investigators and underage alcohol consumption.

Nicholson was asked if he knew where the alcohol was obtained.

“No, and that’s not the main focus, but it certainly is a focus,” he replied. “It appears that that can’t be linked to one person or the owners of the cabin solely. It looks like there were just a whole host of people that attended the party and brought alcohol.”

How were the young people able to get passage into a gated community?

“You can pretty much get through those gates if you have the address and lot number, and I’m sure the girl (whose parents own the cabin) said these cars are going to be with me,” he said.

Property owners “must arrange for any person(s) entry to the (Coosawattee River Resort Association) in advance and must be responsible for that person(s),” the resort’s rules and regulations state.

Nicholson was asked if he was aware of protests in support of the alleged victim at Calhoun High School last week.

“Yes, I met with the superintendent (Michele Taylor) this morning,” he said. “They are very concerned about graduation Friday, about it becoming a riot or some kind of circus.

Taylor said Tuesday the incident was “not a school matter.”

“We await to learn more from Gilmer County (investigators),” she said. “We are continuing to learn more about the investigation and charges, if any.”

What about Friday night’s graduation? Will the 18-year-old males who are suspects walk through the line and receive their diplomas?

“No decision has been made at this point,” Taylor replied. “At this point nobody has been charged. We’re trusting that the Gilmer County sheriff’s department is doing everything they can, and we’re being very cooperative and supportive of that.”

But by late Tuesday Calhoun City Schools issued a statement which read, in part: “Given the seriousness of the allegations, the board and administration are concerned that the presence of the identified suspects at Friday’s commencement ceremonies would likely cause a substantial disruption and could create an unsafe environment. For these reasons, the suspects will not be attending graduation.”

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