Helen Freund, Times-Picayune, May 23, 2014
A woman who authorities say was gang raped in 2012 took the stand Thursday in the trial of two cousins accused of participating in the crime, telling the jury: “I was just praying that someone was going to rescue me . . . I didn’t want to die this way.”
District Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson’s courtroom was silent as jurors heard the 55-year-old woman’s hour-long story of how she was held up at gunpoint on Jan. 26, 2012, and brutally raped inside a dilapidated fourplex on the edge of Central City.
Jermaine Rumley, 23, and Glenn Elliott, 19, are among five men charged with aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery of the woman, a former home health nurse.
The woman, a petite blonde dressed in a black pantsuit and purple blouse, appeared nervous when addressing the jurors, speaking quietly and quickly, often clenching her hands in her lap.
On the day of the reported assault, the woman told police she was on her way to visit a patient in the 4100 block of Thalia Street about 4 p.m. when she was approached by a man brandishing a gun and wearing a white bandana tied around his face.
He began by asking her for money, she said, before getting into her car and forcing her to drive away, directing her to a building two blocks away in the 1300 block of South Gayoso Street.
He then forced her out of the car and into the building, she said.
The masked man then forced her to take off her clothes and demanded that she perform a sex act.
She told jurors she complied, and was scared for her life.
“This was so surreal . . . I just couldn’t believe where I was and what was happening,” she said. “I was just going to keep following instructions because I didn’t want to die.”
At some point, more men came into the building, the woman said, but she was never permitted to look up or see any of their faces.
“Don’t look at me or I’ll kill you,” she recalled someone saying to her.
The woman then walked the jurors through graphic details of the assault, when she says multiple men raped her repeatedly. After the incident, the woman told police she guessed there were 5 to 8 men, but she could not recall how many exactly assaulted her.
“I heard someone say, ‘Oh I think she likes it,’ whatever demeaning thing they could think of to say . . . That was the only point where I really screamed and cried. I could hear myself and I tried to stop. . . . It just hurt so bad.”
She testified that when the men were finished, they left, taking her cellphone and car keys with them. As the woman was beginning to put her clothes back on, she heard a voice.
“I didn’t tell you you could get dressed . . .,” she remembers someone saying to her.
At that point, the woman told jurors, she was in complete despair.
“I sat down on the floor, put my head in between my legs and just prayed,” the woman said. “I thought, ‘Am I going to die this way?'”
The woman said she eventually left the house, but without car keys or a phone she had no way of contacting anyone. She testified she walked back to her client’s home and told them what had happened. They called the police, and she went with a friend to a hospital where she underwent a sexual assault examination and filed a police report.
Besides Rumley and Elliott, prosecutors charged Darren Holmes, 21, Brian Beasley, 23, and David Quinn, 20, in the attack. Prosecutors allege Holmes was the gunman who first abducted the woman.
Earlier this year, Holmes pleaded guilty to charges of forcible rape, second-degree kidnapping and armed robbery and received a 40-year sentence. Beasley is scheduled for trial on May 27.
The woman told jurors that life has never been the same since she was attacked. She said she has been unable to return to work. Everyday tasks seem more difficult and she finds she has little interest in much of anything anymore, she said.
“I think about it every day,” she said. “You wonder if you’ll ever feel the same again.”
If convicted, Rumley and Elliott are facing mandatory life sentences.