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2005-05-24 14:31:45

Bahamas Teen Terrorizes Florida Child

The 17-year-old from the Bahamas raped and choked an 8-year-old girl then tossed her in a dumpster thinking she was dead.

The 17-year-old boy roused the sleeping 8-year-old girl, covered her mouth, forced her to an abandoned, weedy Lake Worth landfill and molested her, he told police.

He was frightened she would tell others what happened early Sunday morning. So he choked her, threw her to the ground and hurled four large rocks at her. He stuffed her into a 30-gallon recycling container and dumped it in a 25-foot trash bin.

Thinking she was dead, he went home.

But two police officers found the girl alive in the bin about seven hours after she was reported missing. She was hospitalized for bruises and cuts but able to identify the boy as her attacker.

"He raped me, choked me and threw me in the Dumpster," she told police. "He threw rocks on me and tried to kill me."

Police arrested the youth, who lived with the girl's godmother in the 700 block of Latona Avenue, where she had stayed Saturday night. He confessed, withdrew his early story about several white men abducting and beating him, and finally apologized, police said.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is not identifying the suspect or the victim because of their ages and the nature of the charges.

On Monday, the teen spent less than five minutes in Circuit Judge Moses Baker Jr.'s courtroom to face charges of attempted murder, false imprisonment and sexual battery on a child under 12.

His public defender, Travis Dunnington, said only that Baker found probable cause to hold the boy at Palm Beach Regional Juvenile Detection Center. Prosecutors will seek adult charges, and a grand jury will begin deciding Thursday whether to indict him, said Jeanne Howard, juvenile division chief for the Palm Beach County State Attorney's Office.

"It's a very serious case with life felonies, so, therefore, we want the grand jury involved as community representatives," Howard said.

The girl remained in good condition at St. Mary's Medical Center, police said. Skinny with long legs, she "looked swollen, twice her size," said the girl's godmother, who spoke to the girl's mother Monday. The godmother isn't being identified to protect the victim's identity. She described the girl as tough, a natural fighter who was born prematurely and never complained while enduring a dog bite that required stitches.

The girl's abduction sparked an Amber Alert and intensive search before dawn Sunday that drew more than 100 officers from all over Palm Beach County. They used helicopters, dogs and boats to search a square-mile area that includes the city's dormant landfill. They initially pursued the boy's claim that someone came in the home, took the girl and then four men beat him for 20 minutes as he tried to help her.

About 10:30 a.m. Sunday, officers popped open the lid of a bright yellow recycling bin, saw the girl's hand poking through the debris and pulled her out.

The teen is from the Bahamas. He stayed with his aunt and uncle in Lake Worth until they kicked him out about four months ago because he was stealing from them. He then moved into the girl's godmother's home, where the girl occasionally spent weekends, the godmother said. The godmother has known the girl's mother for 17 years and frequently offered to watch the girl. Her mother works as a medical secretary in the Fort Lauderdale area.

The godmother took the boy in because the youth knew her son and had no other place to go, she said.

He dropped out of John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, but he was encouraged to return, she said. The godmother's family didn't see the attack coming, she said.

"I'm trying to find out what made him do it. I hate him for it. Trust me, I hate him. He changed all of us for life," she said.

The girl's family has no medical insurance, the godmother said. People plan to set up a fund to raise money for her expenses.

"She's the most resilient child," she said. "She knows she didn't do anything wrong."

By Leon Fooksman,Missy Stoddard and Patty Pensa, The South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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