Editor’s note: The mother’s name has been changed on her request to protect her safety.
More than a month after her 5-year-old daughter was allegedly raped by a child refugee from Iraq, Laney Shelly of Twin Falls, Idaho, says her little girl is still traumatized by the incident while local authorities have denied her access to basic documents such as the 911 transcripts, police and medical reports.
The Twin Falls mother also stands by initial reports, denied by police, that it took officers more than two hours to arrive on the scene after they were called to the Fawnbrook Apartments on June 2.
Meanwhile the family of one of the alleged perpetrators, a 7-year-old Iraqi refugee, continues to live next door to his victim despite having been served with an eviction notice.
Two older boys, both refugees from Sudan ages 10 and 14, were also charged in the incident. Their family left the complex immediately after being served with an eviction notice.
Friends of the family have set up a GoFundMe account hoping to raise enough money to help them move out of the low-income complex where their daughter was molested and into a safer location.
The account has raised a little over $12,000 in 22 days. The family also needs to hire a lawyer.
“We are trying to move but the child [perpetrator] does still live here next to us. I don’t let her play outside, and my child feels like a prisoner in her own home,” Shelly said.
The mother of two children has a rare liver disease that requires her to take medication making her sensitive to the sun.
“I can’t be out there but 5 minutes at a time with my medication,” Shelly said. “She doesn’t understand why she can’t go outside and play.”
“She’s still traumatized really bad,” she said of her 5-year-old daughter, who has a developmental disability. “This week she starts in counseling. When she sees boys, she’ll tell me ‘those are bad boys, those are all bad boys.’”
Shelly, 28, is a stay-at-home mom whose other child, a son, is autistic. Her fiancé works as a chef at a nearby hotel and does not have health insurance.
The crime against their daughter was more horrific than the local prosecutor, Grant Loebs, has made it sound in his statements to local media, she said. And Shelly is also disappointed in the way local news agencies have covered the story.
“The local media, I feel like they’re against us, because they get the wrong story and they switch it around,” she told WND. “I won’t even talk to the local media. I just think everything they say is B.S.”
The Twin Falls community has been mostly supportive, she said. A group of citizens held a rally on a local bridge Saturday and made a stop at their apartment complex to show their support.
The oldest of the three refugee boys, the 14-year-old from Sudan, captured the entire incident on a video about 4 minutes in length.
“Two of them were naked and the one videotaping was coaching the others on what to do,” Shelly said.
She said she could not bring herself to watch the video but her fiancé did.
“He is missing a lot of work because it is hard for him to work, and when he goes to counseling we have to pay for it out of pocket,” she said. “He needs the counseling. It was hard for him to stay back because when this happened he wanted to hurt somebody. That is his baby.”
What the youngest boy was allegedly caught on camera doing to their daughter would definitely qualify as rape under Idaho laws.
According to Idaho Statute, Section 18-6101, “rape” is defined as “the penetration, however slight, of the oral, anal or vaginal opening” of the victim under one of more of nine circumstances. One of those circumstances is that the victim is under 16 and another is that she has a mental or developmental disability.
“I think she falls under this statute. She’s incapable of consenting, she may very well have been threatened with force or violence,” said Mark Guerry, an Idaho attorney of 25 years who ran against Loebs for county prosecutor in the last election. “I think even with what little we know there’s a case here to be made for felony rape. But, part of what’s going on, in my opinion, is the state is trying to keep this thing well under the radar so they can make a decision about how to handle this without having to face the public, and be able to dispose of it as fast as they can without it reflecting badly on them. Nobody wants the scandal of protest over someone being injured by a Muslim immigrant. Doesn’t sound to me that any of this would have ever come to light were it not for the public and people like yourself.”
Immigration status of perpetrators kept secret
Another question not being answered is the immigration status of the offenders.
Authorities have only said that the families in question, one from Sudan and the other from Iraq, have been in the United States for two years or less.
That means they are likely not yet U.S. citizens and may not even have green cards, although the latter status is a possibility. A green card affords the holder to legal permanent residency and nearly all of the same rights as a U.S. citizen. If, however, they are still here on visas, that leaves open the option of deportation, Guerry said.
“The government could begin deportation proceedings based on their conduct alone, moral turpitude, even before any conviction is entered,” he said. “Now they’re juveniles so that’s probably not going to happen, because the immigration system is going to be hesitant to deport children if their parents aren’t involved in the crime. But I think ICE could start proceedings if they are here on temporary visas at this point.”
The little girl told counselors the day after the assault that she was forced into the laundry room by a boy with a knife. No knife was found at the scene and police told the family they can’t include that on the word of a 5-year-old without evidence.
‘It all happened in 10 minutes’
Shelly recounted for WND how the tragic incident went down on June 2.
“It all happened in 10 minutes,” she said. “I was outside with her and had to use the restroom real fast and by the time I got out she was gone. I was freaking out.”
She said she was in the bathroom no more than two or three minutes but that was all it took for the boys to snatch her daughter.
One of the elderly residents of the complex, Joline Payne, saw the 14-year-old filming something in the laundry room and intervened, stopping the crime and bringing the girl to her mother. She told the boys to put their clothes on and called police.
“When she saw me she said ‘you need to call the cops.’ She called and I called as well. It took two to two and a half hours for them to get here,” Shelly said. “That’s why I wanted to see the police report because I know they’re going to change that.”
Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury said during a city-council meeting that officers arrived in a “timely manner.”
“But they did not arrive in a timely manner,” Shelly said. “We called and said there was a little girl who was just raped. Does that not matter to them? They I guess were busy. It was Western Days. But what if someone was dying? I just don’t get it.”
She said she was surprised the two older boys were released from juvenile detention after less than a week.
The youngest boy was never detained but had a hearing last Thursday.
“He was under house arrest but he doesn’t have the [monitoring] bracelet. It’s supervised by the parent,” Shelly said. “And they changed the no-contact order from 300 yards to 100 feet. It’s like we’re the ones that are getting all of the bad news, like we did something wrong.”
Shelly said she is from Las Vegas and her fiancé is from Rexburg, Idaho. Neither has any roots in Twin Falls and they don’t feel like the system has treated them fairly.
“As victims it just makes us feel like they’re treating us like we’re the criminals. I called the victim’s advocate a few times to get the records and she said ‘I told you several times now you can’t have nothing.’ And she’s like ‘why do you want this stuff?’ And I tell her because it’s my daughter and I want to know and I have a right to it under our Constitution.”
Article 1 Section 22 of the Idaho Constitution lays out 10 rights of victims that cannot be violated, and number 9 on the list is the right “to read presentence reports related to the crime.”
Whether that requires a printed copy is not clear, but it would indicate the victim has the right to at least read the reports, said Guerry, the local attorney.
“I think those things should be made available to the family. They’re all personal, medical records about yourself. You can always request medical records about yourself,” Guerry said, regardless of whether a case is sealed by a judge. “This is a little girl, and in this case her parents should be getting the medical records, they should be getting the 911 report. They should be able to request that and at a minimum they should be able to sit down with the prosecutor or deputy prosecutor and review all the files, that’s just respect and fairness to the victim. Whether they continue to stonewall on that, I imagine they will, but the state Constitution does have certain guarantees.”
Shelly said the Constitution doesn’t’ seem to matter, not as much as protecting the rights of the refugees.
“We’re in America, and just because they’re refugees, you need to be treated the same as if you were an American and you did this,” she said. “They shouldn’t have special privileges just because they’re refugees. You come to our country you need to follow our laws.”
Another sexual assault by refugee reported in Mass.
Last week another refugee, a 22-year-old from Syria, was charged in Lowell, Massachusetts, with inappropriately touching a 13-year-old girl, the Lowell Sun reported.
In Lowell District Court on Friday, Emad Hasso was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail after pleading not guilty via an interpreter to one count of indecent assault and battery on someone under 16. He had been in the country less than three months and is one of 15 Syrian refugees to have been resettled in Lowell since May.
In calling the alleged offense a “sexual assault,” the local prosecutor and the police of Twin Falls are being purposely vague in describing the charges against the migrant boys, Guerry said. The term “sexual assault” is too broad to know exactly what the boys are being charged with.
“Attempted penetration would be sexual assault as well,” Guerry said. “A rape typically involves penetration but what about sexual battery? A sexual assault encompasses all of these things. Sexual assault is really sort of an umbrella that all these crimes come under, so they are being deliberately vague, deliberately obtuse. They are not going into specifics, whatever the reason may be. They may think it needs to remain confidential because the boys are more likely to be subjected to some kind of public punishment based on what the public knows.”