A 15-year-old boy accused of raping a Finley neighbor while threatening her with two large knives put serious thought into his actions in an attempt to conceal his identity, a juvenile probation supervisor said Monday.
Rodolfo Garcia Jr. wrapped a torn T-shirt around his face so only his eyes were exposed, used hand motions instead of words when ordering the victim around, and later removed the battery from her stolen cell phone so police wouldn't be able to track it, officials said of the Jan. 16 sexual assault.
"It's very calculated and very thought out as far as trying to avoid detection. And the offense itself is horrific," Tim Markham testified.
That's why Markham, who usually favors keeping kids in the juvenile system, agrees with the prosecutors' recommendation that Garcia be tried as an adult.
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In the seven years he's supervised almost 100 juvenile sex offenders after their criminal matters were resolved, Markham said, he's never worked a case this severe.
He was one of several witnesses to take the stand Monday in a court hearing.
The Finley boy, who turned 16 on March 20, is charged in Benton County Juvenile Court with first-degree rape and first-degree robbery.
If he'd been 16 at the time of the crime, the case automatically would have been bumped up to Superior Court, where he would be tried as an adult. Instead, it's up to Judge Robert Swisher to decide how both Garcia and the community will be better served.
Deputy prosecutors Ronald Boy and Amy Harris described the rape as a "terrifying home invasion." They say citizens will be protected with a longer prison sentence and post-release supervision if Garcia is convicted as an adult.
The teen's lawyer, Mia Mendoza, argued that although they are violent and "disturbing charges," this shouldn't be an easy decision for the court. Garcia's only prior offense is a marijuana possession charge. Psychologist Nathan Henry believes the teen has a future risk of violence consistent with typical juvenile offenders and is a good candidate for treatment, she added.
Swisher did not rule on the matter because the attorneys have a couple more witnesses to question before giving closing arguments. The case is expected back in court later this week.
Garcia has been locked up in juvenile detention on $100,000 bail, which was at Markham's recommendation.
If the case remains in juvenile court and is resolved with the current charges, Garcia faces 3.9 to 4.9 years in a state institution operated by the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration. There is no credit for good behavior in the juvenile system.
He would stay there until he has one year left on his sentence, then would be placed in a group home in the Tri-Cities for the remaining time, Markham said. A group home is less restrictive and supervised, and allows the offender to leave for work, school or treatment.
The sentencing judge could order a longer term to hold him in a juvenile facility until he's 21, but after release at that age there would be no supervision in the community.
An adult conviction on the rape and robbery charges would carry a range of nine years, three months to 12 years in state prison, Markham said.
If convicted of rape as an adult, he would have to serve the full minimum term, with his ultimate release up to a state board based on participation in programs and remorse for the crime. It also means he would be on community supervision for the rest of his life.
Garcia would be held at a juvenile institution for at least two years until he completes sex offender treatment before being transferred into the custody of the Department of Corrections, Markham said.
A rape conviction, whether in juvenile or adult court, would subject Garcia to lifetime sex offender registration.
Garcia avoided eye contact Monday with Benton County Sheriff's Detective Lee Cantu and Markham as they described for the court what allegedly happened in the early morning hours of Jan. 16. His parents and other relatives cried through most of the day-long hearing.
The young woman told authorities she dropped off her children at a neighbor's home in the Kelley's Estates Mobile Home Park the night before so they could stay with friends. She met up with her boyfriend, then returned home alone around midnight and fell asleep on the living room couch.
She heard a loud knock on the front door at 2 a.m. and, thinking her kids decided to come home, opened the door without checking first. She was confronted by a male wearing dark clothing with some type of garment covering most of his face.
He held a large kitchen knife in each hand and forced his way into the home, Cantu testified. The woman pleaded with him not to hurt her and got $40 from her purse, which he grabbed along with her cell phone and put in his pocket, Cantu said.
He motioned with his hands for the woman to pull her pants down but she refused. He then pointed down the hallway to a bedroom and though the woman claimed her children were home, she eventually complied because she didn't want to be hurt, Cantu said.
He covered her head with a sweater so she wouldn't look at him and raped the woman while holding a knife to her throat, he said. When done, he dressed quickly and allegedly pressed the knives against her back as a threat, then closed the bedroom door and ran out of the house.
Since the attacker stole her phone, the woman ran to a nearby home with lights on and asked them to call 911.
The woman, who was treated at Kennewick General Hospital, told authorities she thought she could identify the suspect because there was something about his eyes.
Cantu said because of the mobile home park's rural location, investigators approached all male residents, asked to take their picture, then created a photo lineup with 10 sets of eyes that matched the victim's description. She reportedly started shaking and crying when she saw Garcia's eyes, telling Cantu, "This is him. I know this is him."
Garcia allegedly knew through his girlfriend, another neighbor, that the woman was home alone that night. He told Cantu he didn't talk during the rape because he knew the woman would recognize his voice.
Garcia told Cantu that after taking her money, "he felt he was in control of her and he could do anything he wanted with her. At this point he formulated the plan of having sex with her."
Maria Mendoza, Garcia's mother, testified that since the summer of 2012, her son had been "a completely different person." He would sneak out of their home most nights, had received a long-term suspension from high school for having pot on campus and just stopped interacting with his family.
The mother pleaded with the court to get some help for Garcia "because he's not a bad person. My son is not a bad person."