Two Hollywood police patrol cars greeted South Broward High School students as they arrived on campus Tuesday, but little was said publicly about a 16-year-old classmate who was hospitalized after being brutally beaten and gang raped a few days earlier.
Students’ emotions ran from anger to apathy.
On the 15-year-old’s Facebook page, one angry student wrote: “The real question is why? Why did you do it? What drove you to do something so cruel and disgusting as that?’’
Another student, a 10th grader named Ashley who knows one of the girls who was arrested, said “It’s kind of like nobody really cared. We heard the two girls were just having an argument. It wasn’t a big deal.’’
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Hollywood Police arrested five teens – including two girls - on charges that they held the 16-year old prisoner and beat her while three male youths gang raped her in a house on McKinley Street, a few blocks away from the school. One of the teens videotaped the assault with a cellphone, which police confiscated.
The victim was beaten so badly that several bones were broken in her face and her eyes were swollen shut, police said. She was released Tuesday from Joe DiMaggio’s Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.
Four of the accused and the victim are students at South Broward High, according to their Facebook pages. The three boys and two girls, ages 15 to 19, face charges of rape, false imprisonment and felony battery, according to records. The oldest teens in the attack – Jayvon Woolfork, 19, and Lanelyn Singleton, 18 – have criminal records, police say.
Students said the two girls who were arrested along with the three young men – petite blondes who look almost like sisters – were running with a bad crowd. One of the girls invited the victim to the McKinley Street home, police said. The two girls, ages 15 and 16, pinned down the victim, began kicking her repeatedly in the head, dragged her around the backyard by her hair, smashed her head into concrete and taunted her with vulgar expletives until she agreed to have sex with Woolfork, who lived in the house, investigators say. The minors remain jailed at the county juvenile detention center while Singleton and Woolfork are being held without bond at the Broward County jail.
Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez, however, said the cell phone video recorded by one of the suspects is chilling, showing that that this was more than some rough-housing among a group of teens.
“I saw the video and I can tell you that it was very disturbing to watch. I can’t even imagine what this girl is going through,’’ Fernandez said.
County property records show that the house is owned by an investment company, which rents the house where the attack happened, on a quiet street of middle class families in east Hollywood.
Neighbors on Monday said luxury cars, like BMWs and Mercedes Benzes, came and went from the home at all hours. One said she never saw anyone bring groceries into the house, which she found suspicious.
The viciousness of the attack shocked even longtime law enforcement officers who have handled juvenile crime.
“The question I keep asking myself -- and the question we all need to ask ourselves -- is what kind of young people are we raising in our society?’’ said Broward Assistant State Attorney Maria Schneider, a juvenile prosecutor for 27 years.
“How do you get five kids with such coldness in their souls that not one of them would say, wait this isn’t right?’’
Schneider said over the years she has noticed a “desensitization” among young people to the pain of others.
“I just wonder who are these kids? Who is raising them? Why is this happening?’’
On the 15-year-old girl’s Facebook page, the girl – who The Herald is not identifying because of her age – is shown holding up her middle finger, rolling what appears to be a joint and displaying a bottle of Captain Morgan’s.
Hollywood detectives continued the investigation, focusing on whether there could be other victims. The possibility that the people who rented the house could have been involved in human trafficking is being looked at, Schneider said.
“There is a possibility that these girls could have been victims themselves,’’ the prosecutor said.
Sex trafficking is a lot more common that people realize, and it doesn’t always involve a large-scale ring bringing in women from other countries, said Schneider, a member of the Broward County Human Trafficking Task Force.
“This is a very under-the-radar kind of activity,’’ she said. “It can be as subtle as someone talking a young woman into having sex because she loves him.’’
This case has all the elements of human trafficking, said John Foubert, national president of the anti-rape coalition One in Four.
“One of the ways pimps demoralize these girls is to beat the crap out of them until they agree to have sex with them. And a lot of the time, the only way the girls can get out is to bring in other girls.’’
Recording the sexual assault is another method used to demoralize victims, Foubert said.
“They threaten to show the video to their friends, their parents and post it on social media,’’ he said.
Fernandez said the teens involved in the crime did not come from stable homes, one of the reasons students gave for not being overly concerned about the crime.