A juvenile who was arrested more than four months ago on suspicion of the rape of a 76-year-old woman will have to wait at least one more day – and possibly much longer – to learn whether he will stand trial as an adult in the case following another hearing Monday.
The juvenile was one of two suspects, ages 17 and 18, who were arrested after two intruders broke into the woman’s home near Lincoln and George Washington Boulevard on June 7 and took two flat-screen television sets, jewelry and $3 in cash. The woman testified at a hearing in August that one of the intruders held a gun to her head and raped her, then threatened to come back and kill her if she called police. She was unable to identify her attacker.
Both suspects were arrested a few blocks away at a home in the 2400 block of East Mesita where police found some of the woman’s jewelry.
Wichita police said the two defendants gave conflicting statements about the crime – each claiming to have acted as a lookout while the other collected property and presumably had the opportunity to rape the woman. DNA evidence, however, pointed to the 17-year-old as the rapist because the woman’s DNA was found on his underwear at the time of his arrest.
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No such evidence was found on the clothing of the adult, John Edward Thompson. He is scheduled to stand trial in January for rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary.
Prosecutors filed a motion to prosecute the 17-year-old in adult court, citing juvenile court convictions for aggravated assault, attempted robbery, misdemeanor theft, attempted misdemeanor theft and misdemeanor battery.
A hearing on the adult-prosecution motion started in August but was continued to give the juvenile’s court-appointed lawyer time to arrange a psychological evaluation and look at school records. Then in September, the juvenile’s family hired Wichita attorney Mark Schoenhofer, who was scheduled to represent the juvenile when his hearing resumed Monday.
Schoenhofer told District Judge Joseph Bribiesca at the start of the hearing that he learned over the weekend of an ethical conflict that will prevent him from continuing on the case. Bribiesca said he would appoint a new lawyer to take over the case, and he said he would then ask lawyers on both sides to meet with him Tuesday to decide how the case should proceed.
Wichita police lab investigators testified in August that they recovered 13 fingerprint impressions from the woman’s home. They said six were left at the crime scene by Thompson and five were left by his juvenile co-defendant. One print was traced to the victim, investigators said, and one was never identified.
Thompson told detectives that the 17-year-old decided to break into the home after noticing that a car that was usually parked outside was gone.
Because the woman is in poor health, prosecutors were granted permission to videotape her testimony so it will be available for use at future hearings should she not be able to testify. Her husband died a month before the attack.