9-year-old Rape Suspect Weeps in Court

Published September 29, 2009

A 9-year-old boy charged in the gang-rape of an 8-year-old Liberian girl sobbed in court Monday as his teacher testified that he rarely did his homework and often got into fights with other students, The Associated Press reports.

Under questioning by the prosecution, second-grade teacher Toya Abrams said the boy was a challenge and had various behavioral problems. The boy eventually put his head down on a table and began sobbing, prompting his lawyer to ask for a recess.

The boy is one of four Liberian boys facing charges in the rape. Police say the boys lured the girl to a storage shed at a west Phoenix apartment complex with the promise of gum and took turns raping her.

All the children involved are refugees from the West African nation of Liberia.

The case sparked an international outcry after police reported the girl's father said she brought shame on the family and he didn't want her back — comments a family pastor later said were misunderstood because of a language barrier.

State child welfare officials have custody of the girl, and police are recommending neglect charges against her parents.

Monday's hearing was to designed to help Judge Dawn Bergin decide if the 9-year-old charged in the rape is competent to stand trial. Two mental-health experts found that he is not, and Bergin must listen to testimony from them and others before she makes a decision.

Bergin was expected make a ruling Monday or Tuesday, but decided testimony would take too long for that. She scheduled another hearing on the same matter for Nov. 18.

Abrams, who teaches at Camelview Elementary School in Phoenix, also testified that she was concerned about the boy's home life, saying he wore the same dirty shirt to school for months, often smelled bad, and was often hungry. She said no one in his family ever showed up to his parent-teacher conferences or signed his homework.

"As a teacher, that let me know that I'm on my own," she said.

Written by <P>By BET.com Staff</P>

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