MADISONVILLE - An undercurrent of anger and shock runs through the small town of Madisonville; situated halfway between Houston and Dallas along Interstate 45.
"You can never prepare yourself for something like this," said Madisonville Police Chief Chuck May. "Even as old as I am, emotionally it hit me."
May is referring to the case of a 16-year-old girl who claims she was gang raped last March in a rundown trailer. Ten men and one woman have been charged with sexual assault of a child and trafficking of persons.
"People think they know the truth, but they don't," said May.
May said there has been talk among friends and family of some of the accused, claiming the teen was a willing participant in what happened to her.
"She's no victim," said Aretha Turner Dunn, whose son, Lafelix Turner, has been charged in this case. "I'm going to say that, she's no victim. She knew exactly what she was doing when she was doing it."
Dunn told Local 2 Investigates she doesn't even believe her son was at the trailer during the time police said the teen was raped.
"I've know my son was not there, I've been told several times by several people my son was not there," said Dunn.
Police said in March, the teen was given crystal meth at a home, then, someone paid a man to bring her to the trailer. May said 10 men and one woman took turns having sex with the teen. Police said some of the men even texted friends to come to the trailer. Investigators said after the sexual assault, the girl was then assaulted with a tire iron and "made to feel that she was going to be killed." May said several people also knew what was happening but did nothing to stop it.
"That's a hard one to grasp," said May. "I don't even have an answer for that."
May said the girl underwent a forensic interview that lasted two days. He said his investigators then spent three months corroborating everything the girl told them about the incident. That investigation culminated last Friday, when police arrested several of the suspects. Other suspects later surrendered.
"They've been convicted, condemned, slandered is my attitude," said Dunn. "They've convicted those boys and they haven't even had a fair trial. They won't be able to have a fair trial."
The mother of Lorenzo Ford, another man charged in this case, said she believes there has been a rush to judgment.
"Everybody all over the world is labeling them criminals and I know my son is not a criminal," said Mokeshia Sanches.
The sister of another man charged in this case also spoke with Local 2 under the condition we not identify her by name.
"It's just been hard on everybody," the woman said.
The woman said she has seen the teen hanging around with some of the suspects at that trailer several times before the March incident. The woman said she also saw the teen the day police said she was raped, but didn't realize anything happened until the following day.
"I called my aunt and told them people going around saying this girl is saying she was raped," the woman said. "If they did mess with her, knowing she was 16, then they were wrong for that."
May said some of the suspects were acquaintances of the teen, but in a town of just under 4,400 it is not uncommon for people to cross paths. He also said what matters in this case is the girl's age. May said whatever circumstances existed before the incident do not change the fact the girl is a minor.
"Whether it was consensual sex, whether it was drug induced sex, whatever. It doesn't make a difference to us," said May.
He said he is also infuriated the girl is facing a severe backlash on social media from people he suspects are friends of the accused.
"What little credibility she had left is almost destroyed by trash like this," said May. "Emotionally it drains me when I read a few of those, I had to stop reading."
One suspect charged in this case, Hannable Craig, is still on the run.
"We'll get him," said May. "Time is on my side, not his."
May said his department is finalizing all the paperwork in the case so it can go before a Madison County grand jury in July. Only two of the suspects arrested in this case have been able to post bond.
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