It began almost casually, on a warm summer evening in Church Hill, as a conversation among friends looking for something to do.
“Do you want to rob somebody?” asked one boy, according to police.
“All right,” answered another.
It ended, Richmond police say, with four teenagers—14, 15, 16 and 17 -stripping, raping and sodomizing an 18-year-old Chesterfield woman at gunpoint on a picnic table in Libby Hill Terrace Park, while the woman’s boyfriend was forced to sit helplessly at the table throughout the Aug. 4 ordeal.
“Everybody had sex with her and then we left,” suspect Kelvin Leon Lightfoot, 17, told police in a statement after his arrest Sept. 8.
One of the attackers insisted on borrowing a condom to wear while raping the woman, according to another suspect’s statement.
Then the gang forced their naked victim to walk to her sport utility vehicle and give them the $20 she had in her purse, police said.
Yesterday, the four teens charged in the crime were in Richmond Juvenile and Domestic Relations General District Court for a preliminary hearing on conspiracy charges to add to the sexual assault, robbery, abduction and firearms charges already filed against them.
Judge J. Stephen Buis ruled there was probable cause to certify the conspiracy charges to a grand jury, which has handed down indictments to Circuit Court on the other offenses against Lightfoot; his brother, Kenard Rawshawn Lightfoot, 16; and cousins Rashard Leon Garnet, 15, and Travon Montra Garnet, 14.
Prosecutors intend to try the four as adults.
Buis based his decision on excerpts of statements given by each of the four defendants about the night of the attack.
Under questioning from Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Diane Abato, Richmond police Det. James Simmons read excerpts from the statements, transcribed from videotaped interviews with himself and Det. Shirley Rinaldi on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8.
Taken together, authorities said, the statements paint a portrait of a coordinated attack that left a young couple physically and emotionally traumatized and a neighborhood in shock and fear.
According to the statements, the following chain of events occurred:
The teens met at a playground near the park shortly before the 10:30 p.m. attack, in violation of court-ordered curfews and probation for previous offenses.
Kelvin Lightfoot had a gun.
The group discussed robbing somebody and then went up to Libby Hill Terrace Park, a popular stargazing spot that sits high in Church Hill, overlooking the James River with a panoramic view of the city.
They came upon a couple sitting at a picnic table.
“I don’t know, man, white people,” Travon Garnet said at the time, according to his statement to police.
Kelvin Lightfoot gave Rashard Garnet the gun.
“Kelvin was, like, ‘I want you to do it,’“ Rashard Garnet told police.
Rashard Garnet sat down at the picnic table and asked the woman’s 20-year-old boyfriend for a cigarette. Then he asked him for a light. As the boyfriend reached into his pocket, Garnet laid the gun on the table, according to the statements.
Kelvin Lightfoot, Travon Garnet and Kenard Lightfoot circled behind the woman.
They told the boyfriend to take off his shoes. They told the woman to take off her clothes. But she apparently wasn’t cooperating fast enough.
“Everyone started ripping her clothes off,” said Kelvin Lightfoot, according to his statement.
The boyfriend was told to keep his head down on the table, while the attackers took turns simultaneously raping and sodomizing the woman, according to the statements.
During the assault, which police said lasted between 20 and 40 minutes, Rashard Garnet asked for a condom. “They ain’t getting my stuff,” he said, according to Travon Garnet’s police statement.
After the attacks, the gang robbed the couple, ransacking their truck and taking $20 from the woman, according to the statements. Then they started “wiping stuff off,” ostensibly to avoid detection by fingerprints.
The gang took some compact discs, jewelry and a phone from the couple, but ended up ditching them in a nearby sewer, police said.
During the 45-minute hearing, the defendants, clad in orange prison attire, stood passively before the judge.
Next to them stood their court-appointed attorneys. Behind them stood their mothers and legal guardians. None of the defendants spoke.
“They raped her. They sodomized her,” Abato told the court, arguing for conspiracy. “They robbed both victims and abducted both victims by holding the gun on them.
“The point of the evening was to rob somebody,” she added. “But together they all forced her to commit sexual acts.”
The next hearing in the case is set for Dec. 8.