June 23, 2013

Rape, robbery case a reminder that anyone can be a victim

The 76-year-old woman said she wants everyone to forget about what happened to her June 7 at her Wichita home.

The 76-year-old woman said she wants everyone to forget about what happened to her June 7 at her Wichita home.

“Though I’m not sure I’ll ever forget," she said.

The woman, who was recently widowed, told police that two teenagers kicked in the door to her home in southeast Wichita and that one raped her.

Contacted by The Eagle, she explained why she didn’t want to be interviewed.

“I’m afraid of making myself more of a target,” she said.

So far this year, the Wichita Police Department has investigated four other sex crimes against people older than 65, records show. One was a rape, another an attempted rape. One woman said a man exposed himself to her. Another woman said someone sent her obscene material in the mail.

Last year, police looked into seven sex crimes in which people older than 65 were the victims, and in 2011, six. Five years ago, they handled 10 sex crimes against seniors.

“A lot of people assume that it’s a young woman’s issue, but we do see it across the lifespan,” said Mary Stolz-Newton, assistant director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.

“We find the community, if they hear about a very young child or an elderly person, their compassion and sympathy is a little bit more there. I sure wish it were that way for all survivors.”

The center handled 126 cases involving people 60 and older between 2009 and 2012, Stolz-Newton said.

A study by the U.S. Department of Justice says the rate of rape and sexual assault per 1,000 women is 0.1 for those 65 or older. Data from the report was from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which collects information on non-fatal crimes reported and not reported to police. The survey seeks information from a nationally representative sample of people age 12 or older.

Sexual abuse was one of the “most understudied” types of mistreatment of seniors, the National Institute of Justice said. Its study showed that elderly sexual assault victims were not routinely evaluated to access the psychological effects of an attack.

“For people of my mother’s generation, for instance, it’s difficult to talk about sex, so talking about sexual violence is even more removed,” said Kathy Williams, executive director of the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center. “They put it aside and you go forward. I think that’s another huge disservice. We do not clearly understand always the culture that people come from.

“As a society, we have a very narrow perception of sexual assault and rape. We assume in a lot of ways that it’s going to be a stranger jumping out of a bush at a young woman. It goes the full range from children to the elderly to men.”

One of the 76-year-old woman’s sons said the case has been a nightmare for his mother and family. He said prosecutors and police advised the family to not talk to the media.

Two teens, ex-parole officer face charges

The woman in the June case told police that the door to her home near Lincoln and George Washington was kicked in about 5 a.m. that day.

Two teenagers face charges in the case. A 22-year-old woman accused of hiding them at her home also faces charges.

Prosecutors from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office charged John Edward Thompson Jr., 18, with rape, aggravated robbery while armed with a dangerous weapon and two counts of aggravated burglary. Thompson has requested a court-appointed lawyer, saying he is unemployed.

Thompson’s mother, Lisa Brown, said she did not want to talk about the case.

“I prefer not to,” she said when contacted by The Eagle.

They also charged a 17-year-old with one count each of rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary. They are seeking to prosecute him as an adult.

Police have said that at least one of the men had a gun.

The men are accused of stealing the woman’s wedding ring, a gold-colored cross on a gold chain, a Seiko watch and other jewelry. Records say they also stole two flat-screen televisions, a red Kansas City Chiefs coat, $20 in cash, car keys, a Kohl’s credit card and a Sam’s Club membership card.

Police found the suspects at a house a couple of blocks away from the victim’s house. Jessica Dawn Ward, who owns the house, is thought to be Thompson’s girlfriend, officials said.

No one answered the door Thursday at the tidy white house with a red front door and yellow artificial flowers in a window box.

Ward, who faces two charges of aiding a felon, is a former parole officer for the Kansas Department of Corrections. She also had worked as a corrections officer for Sedgwick County, records show.

She has hired a private attorney, J. Matthew Leavitt, to defend her. He did not return a phone call from The Eagle.

Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay said Ward was a parole officer I from Feb. 4 to April 15. He would not say why her employment ended. He said Ward supervised parolees in Wichita.

Barclay said a college degree typically is required for people in that job. Work experience can be substituted for a degree, he said.

The Corrections Department did a background check on Ward, Barclay said, and found no criminal record.

Barclay said records do not indicate that Ward had encountered Thompson in her work for the state. She would not have supervised the juvenile in any way in her work as a parole officer.

Kristi Zukovich, a spokeswoman for Sedgwick County, said Ward worked for the county as a corrections officer from May 14, 2012, to Jan. 31.

People with that job title, Zukovich said, do “routine work involving the observation, security and treatment of juvenile or adult offenders in a 24-hour correctional or residential treatment facility.”

Corrections officers also monitor “resident activities within the facility or, as approved, outside the facility, with emphasis on security or treatment in behavior modification and control,” according to the job description.

Neighbors who live on Ward’s street said she and others at the house kept to themselves.

Neighbors said police surrounded the home June 7 and waited for the suspects to come out. Police explained to neighbors what was going on.

The neighborhood association called a meeting the next day. With one or two hours’ notice, about 50 to 60 families showed up at a nearby park to find out what happened.

Criminal histories

Both Thompson and the 17-year-old have criminal histories as juveniles.

In April 2012, the 17-year-old was convicted of attempted robbery and aggravated assault, both felonies. In two 2010 cases, he had been charged with misdemeanor battery and theft.

Efforts to reach his family have been unsuccessful.

He “has a previous history of antisocial behavior or patterns of physical violence,” according to a document filed June 11 by prosecutors requesting that he be prosecuted as an adult in the rape and robbery of the 76-year-old. A hearing on that matter has been set for July 19.

Earlier this year, on March 27, at the request of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority, a judge discharged the 17-year-old from the authority’s custody.

Juvenile court records show that on April 9, 2012, he pleaded no contest to attempted robbery, attempted theft and aggravated assault. At his June 11, 2012, sentencing, he was ordered to be detained in the Sedgwick County Juvenile Detention Facility pending a placement by the justice authority.

The robbery/theft/aggravated assault case stemmed from an incident the night of Feb. 4, 2012, at a Wal-Mart on West Kellogg, when he was 16. According to the criminal complaint, he grabbed a purse on a 67-year-old woman’s shoulder and tried to pull it out of her hands, and stuck his hand in the pants pocket of the woman’s 71-year-old husband and tried to remove his wallet. He threatened another man with a handgun, according to the complaint.

The 71-year-old male victim said he and his wife were putting groceries in the trunk of their car, parked in a handicapped space, when the incident happened. He said he thought more than one suspect was involved. He said the suspects backed away when he said something to them.

“They caught us by surprise,” he said. For security reasons, he asked that his name not be used.

In December 2011, when the teen was 15, he was charged with misdemeanor theft – a pair of socks from a Gordmans store – but the charge was later dismissed, court records indicate.

Earlier in 2011, he had been discharged from the court’s jurisdiction because he had fulfilled conditions of his probation, apparently from an earlier case. Those conditions included being enrolled in school and attending classes, following a curfew, being subject to random urinalysis and breathalyzer and getting counseling.

According to court records, his first trouble as a juvenile resulted from a November 2009 incident involving a fellow student at Hamilton Middle School, when he was 13. He was accused of punching a 14-year-old boy in the face multiple times in their classroom. He was put on diversion, meaning the prosecution would be deferred as long as he stayed out of trouble and fulfilled certain conditions, but that the diversion was revoked in July 2010 after he was arrested in a June 2010 theft.

Prosecutors charged Thompson in June 2011 with misdemeanor theft – of an air gun, CO2 cartridges and BBs – from a Wal-Mart on North Rock Road. According to a police investigation, a Wal-Mart employee saw Thompson conceal the items, leave the store without paying for them, load the gun and shoot it into the air. He admitted taking the items, valued at $38.41, according to police.

In October 2011, he was put on diversion, with prosecution being deferred. But in April 2012, prosecutors filed a motion to revoke his diversion after he was arrested in another theft case and had failed to make passing grades, both violations of his diversion agreement. The new case against him involved the theft of three polo shirts from J.C. Penney on Feb. 20, 2012.

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