PROVIDENCE — The 16-year-old girl could remember a man holding her down on a bed and pouring Hennessy in her mouth after she felt sick from drinking and smoking at the party.
She could remember waking up to find herself naked in a bathroom shower, with about 15 men laughing and possibly taking photos of her, according to court records.
And then, she later told Providence detectives, she could remember being taken into a bedroom.
When the girl awoke afterward in the apartment at 100 Glenham St. on Dec. 20, she had vaginal pain and cuts on her thighs, according to police and court records. She was alone with one of the men, who told her to leave. She discovered that someone had used her cellphone to send taunting messages to her ex-boyfriend about multiple men sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious, according to court records.
Her mother had been searching for her, and found out from the ex-boyfriend that her daughter “was in trouble,” according to court records.
The girl and her family went to the Providence police that day, but the investigation churned slowly as detectives tried to determine who was with the girl that night and what they had done. All she had were first names or false names of a few of the men, including two who had brought her to the party. She had been unconscious during the alleged assault.
And the detectives wanted to make sure they apprehended everyone.
Then in June, a video appeared on Facebook — showing the teenage girl, naked and unconscious on a bed, as men sexually assaulted her and others watched.
“The video was more than enough to see the crime and identify the culprits,” Providence Police Major David Lapatin said Tuesday. “It is sickening to see it. It was tough on the investigators. They did a really good job.”
The girl’s mother recorded the video off Facebook to share with the detectives. With the recording and help from detectives in organized crime and intelligence, Detectives Koren Garcia and Jared Sherman obtained warrants for eight men who were allegedly in the room with the girl. Late last week, police arrested seven of the men; one remains at large.
This case is reminiscent of what happened nearly 40 years ago to a young woman at Big Dan’s Tavern in New Bedford. In March 1983, Cheryl Ann Araujo, 21, was gang-raped by four men on a pool table while bystanders watched and cheered. The four men were convicted, but two men who egged on the assault were acquitted.
In the case in Providence, police determined that at least one of the men raped the teenage girl, while the others participated in other ways, Lapatin said.
“They’re all around watching it, in the room,” he said.
At a news conference Wednesday, Providence’s police chief praised the girl’s strength through a horrifying ordeal.
“I commend her bravery, her courage, and her family for sticking by her,” said Chief of Police Colonel Hugh T. Clements Jr. “It’s easy to say come forward, but if you’re the one who has to move forward on this case, make a statement, identify people, and put your right hand up in court and get grilled by a defense attorney or in this case, eight defense attorneys, it’s easy to say. So, I give her a lot of credit.”
The detectives also brought in help for the girl and her family from sexual assault trauma experts at Day One, Family Service of Rhode Island, and the state Department of Children Youth and Families, he said.
The alleged assailants are all friends, according to the police, and some were well-known to city detectives who investigate violent crime. At least two are affiliated with local gangs, according to court records, and several were out on bail on charges including felony assault, illegally carrying firearms, dealing drugs, and threatening to kill Providence police officers.
Richard Tarell Chester, 20, of Seekonk, Mass., was charged with first-degree sexual assault with a person who was mentally incapacitated, and conspiracy. He was referred to the public defender’s office for representation.
Chester was allegedly seen on the video raping the girl, according to an affidavit supporting a search warrant. The girl also told police that he was one of the men laughing at her in the bathroom, and that he was alone with her when she woke up and told her to leave, according to court records.
Chester is being held without bail. He has a lengthy criminal record that includes charges that he beat up a father in front of the man’s 3-year-old daughter at Neutaconkanut Park in February. The man told police that Chester and another man attacked him when he asked Chester not to ride his dirt bike near the children, according to court records. That case is pending.
The other seven men accused in the December incident are charged with assault with intent to commit first-degree sexual assault on a person who was mentally incapacitated, and conspiracy. Carlos Chacon, 20; Luis Cabrera, 19; Jose Vargas, 19; Erving Keith Colon, 25; Malcom Baptista, 19; and Luis N. Luna, 19, all of Providence, have all been arraigned at District Court.
No pleas were entered, as is customary for felony charges at this level. All were ordered not to contact the teenage girl.
Carlos Vasquez, 19, of Providence, who is facing the same charges, was still wanted by police Wednesday.
Vasquez, Vargas, and Baptista were also arrested after a disturbance involving alleged gang members in March. Baptista was arrested during the fight, and Vasquez, who also spells his name Vazquez, was subsequently arrested after allegedly making threats to police on video. Vargas was arrested on gun and drug charges in connection with the incident. The cases against Vasquez and Vargas are still pending. Vargas’s attorney, David Morra of Providence, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Luna was recently charged with breaking and entering in Johnston; that case is pending. He pleaded no contest earlier this year to a misdemeanor charge of receiving stolen goods; that case was filed. Luna posted bond. His attorney, Chad Bank of Providence, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
Colon also has a lengthy record that includes domestic assault and possession of a stolen vehicle.
There was no information on attorneys for Colon, Baptista or Chicon. Cabrera’s attorney, Nicholas Obolensky of Providence, declined comment Wednesday.