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Boys in rape sentenced to 30 years in prison

NEW PORT RICHEY — They broke in around 1 a.m., faces covered. They had been there before.

The first time, they just stole from the house. This time, they went after the 89-year-old woman who lived there. Held her down. Beat her. Raped her.

They were 14, 15 and 20 years old.

The oldest, whom prosecutors said did not take part in the rape, pleaded and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The boys got 30 years.

On Friday, after considering the youngest boy's lack of intelligence and other disorders, a judge knocked five years off his sentence.

• • •

Luis Reyes' mother, Aida Santiago, moved her family from Massachusetts to Port Richey to escape a dangerous area. Once here, she said, Reyes thrived for a while. He was an honor student who played football and basketball.

But around January 2009, he changed.

"He was always angry," Santiago said.

He was also breaking into various businesses around west Pasco. Then in early April, when Reyes was 14, he and 15-year-old Carlos Fernandez broke into the 89-year-old woman's house in a subdivision near the Gulf View Square mall and took her car on a joyride. It wasn't random; one of their friends had done chores for the woman. They knew she lived alone.

A week later, they went back. They put a pillow over the woman's face. They raped her with sharp objects.

Tips led investigators to the boys within a week. After they were arrested, they sat in the back of a sheriff's patrol car laughing and bragging that they wouldn't be punished harshly because of their ages. They didn't know they were being recorded.

At their sentencings months later, when they learned how wrong they were, neither would admit to sexually battering the woman. Reyes said he only struck the woman with a flashlight.

The judge did not hold back.

"It's not just a failure to do right," Circuit Judge Michael Andrews told them. "It's an intentional wrong, and you should have known better."

• • •

A psychiatrist evaluated Reyes and offered these conclusions: He displays poor judgment. He has attention deficit disorder and low intelligence. He has difficulty accepting the consequences of his actions.

Keith Hammond, Reyes' attorney, sought the evaluation in hopes of convincing Andrews to shave some time off the sentence.

Prosecutors objected to any reduction. "Sometimes we refer to those people as sociopaths," Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis said Friday about the psychiatrist's findings.

Halkitis mentioned Reyes' mother's previous testimony, when she said she tried her best to give him a good home and teach him right from wrong.

"He decided for himself he didn't want to listen," Halkitis said.

But Andrews said he thought Reyes was remorseful, and that the conversation in the back of the patrol car was evidence that he really didn't understand the magnitude of his actions.

He decided to reduce the sentence from 30 years to 25.

"It may, in the end, not make much of a difference," Andrews said, "but it is less."

"I don't know what will happen to you after 25 years" in prison, the judge told the shackled teen. "I hope between now and the next time we see you again you'll become a better man."

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Boys in rape sentenced to 30 years in prison 01/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 28, 2011 9:01pm]
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