A total of 10 suspects accused of gang-raping a 16-year-old teen are now in jail for their involvement in a controversial case that now has some in the community of Madisonville outraged.
“One of the reasons I decided to stay here when I moved here was because it was such a friendly community,” said Madisonville resident Tatjana Sandles.
Tatjana Sandles is just one of many residents in Madisonville who say the place she calls home has been divided -- and it all began just four days ago. News 3 had exclusive access as Madisonville police rounded up suspects Friday morning. Late March, a 16-year-old's mother contacted authorities alleging her daughter was taken to a trailer home on Lance Street, given Crystal Meth and repeatedly gang-raped by 11 individuals.
“They don't know enough about life to consent or not to consent; and it doesn't matter by law whether they have consensual sex or forced sex,” said Madisonville Police Chief Chuck May. “That's a violation of the law.”
DNA evidence linked several suspects to the crime; that and a detailed confession from the victim gave police enough to issue warrants. The story hits too close to home for Sandles.
“My son is a lot of things...but he isn't that,” Sandles said of the gang-raping allegations.
Her 19-year-old son Adrian Butler is one of the suspects. Each is charged with trafficking and sexual assault of a child.
“What his girlfriend told me is that she was with him at the time and they picked up the girl [victim] from her house with her parents knowledge and then they dropped her off on the side of the street and they left,” explained Sandles. “That’s all I know.”
Now Sandles wants justice, along with more than 400 people who've voiced their opinions on a Facebook page called, “Justice for the Innocent Suspects in Madisonville, TX.” Many of the people who have voiced their opinions have posted personal pictures, harassing and calling the victim obscene names.
Warrants were issued for 24-year-old Debrodrick Manning, 23-year-old Brandon Gilbert, 19-year-old LaFelix Turner, 19-year-old Derrick Kyle, 25-year-old Steven Manning, 19-year-old Adrian Butler, and 19-year-old Lorenzo Ford. 35-year-old female Sondress Lotts and 33-year-old Earl James Tyler turned themselves in over the weekend. Twenty-four-year-old Hannable Craig is still at large.
“I just hope and pray that my son has learned his lesson and won't give rides to people like he has in the past,” said Sandles.
Sandles hopes justice prevails. The question remains what justice will look like -- in this case.
All of the suspects have been charged with sexual assault of a child and trafficking of persons, a first degree felony -- which means if convicted the suspects could get up to 99 years in prison.