A Gwinnett County courtroom was crowded with three teenage defendants Friday, all facing similar charges for allegedly breaking into a woman’s Norcross apartment in May and raping her in front of her 4-year-old son.
The teens — 17-year-old Francisco Palencia, 19-year-old Josue Ramirez and 18-year-old Angela Garcia — appeared in front of Judge Robert Walker for a preliminary hearing, during which Walker heard evidence and decided that there was probable cause to proceed with the charges.
A fourth 15-year-old girl was also arrested and is being charged as an adult, but The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not generally identify juveniles charged with a crime. She was not in court Friday, since she waived her right to a preliminary hearing.
Ramirez, who used a Spanish translator in court, broke down in tears as the hearing began and the prosecuting attorney read the charges: rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated battery, kidnapping, home invasion and cruelty to children.
Police believe Ramirez, Palencia, Garcia and the 15-year-old broke into the victim’s apartment in the early morning hours of May 12, and began stealing items. When the woman got home from work at around 3 a.m., Ramirez and Palencia were still inside, Gwinnett County Police Detective A. R. Scott testified Friday. The woman had her two children with her — one was 4 years old, the other 7 months old.
“She noticed that the kitchen light was on, and all of a sudden she was attacked by who she described as two masked men wearing all black,” Scott said. “Her kids were dropped to the floor, she was forced into the kitchen, where boiling water was thrown on her left shoulder.”
Then, Scott said, the woman was tased by a stun gun and she ran to her bedroom, where one of the assailants told her to perform oral sex on him.
“The assailant was carrying the stun gun, had it on the whole time,” Scott said. “So in fearing for her life she felt she needed to do it in case she was going to get hurt, or her kids were going to get hurt if she didn’t.”
Then, the same person raped her, after asking if she had AIDS, Scott said.
According to the initial police report, the woman’s 4-year-old son was in the room as she was raped, which is the reason for the child abuse charges.
The four suspects then fled the scene in a white Toyota van, Scott said. Police believe the two girls acted as “lookouts” who notified Ramirez and Palencia when the woman was arriving home, and then sat in the van during the alleged attack.
The suspects were identified and arrested weeks later, after police matched a fingerprint on a pot in the apartment to Ramirez, Scott said.
Ramirez initially denied involvement in the attack, but later told police “everything that happened,” Scott said.
Ramirez told police that he stood at the bedroom doorway while Palencia attacked and raped the woman. Palencia, however, said he hid in the closet while Ramirez raped her.
“I think it’s early; we still need to see how things shake out,” Ramirez’s attorney Ramon Alvarado told the AJC after the hearing.
All four suspects were charged because under Georgia law, “every person concerned in the commission of a crime is a party thereto and may be charged with and convicted of commission of the crime.”
Scott said the suspects stole jewelry, a television, a credit card and the victim’s gray and white husky puppy from the apartment. The dog has not yet been found.
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