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Pasco County teens charged in attack, rape of 89-year-old woman

PORT RICHEY — Two teen boys — one 14, the other 15 — have been charged with attacking, raping and trying to smother an 89-year-old woman with her own pillow before dawn Wednesday in her Palm Terrace Gardens home.

The suspects are Carlos Fernandez, 15, and Luis Reyes Jr., 14. Another boy, 16-year-old Sean Maus, was also arrested, but not charged with taking part in the attack. All of the boys live close to the woman's house.

The week before the woman was beaten and raped, her house was broken into while she slept. Thieves stole a flashlight, some food and her red Pontiac Sunfire. A neighbor said the thieves ate the woman's snack cakes and left the wrappers littered on her lawn.

The neighbor figured the burglars were kids.

Authorities agree.

According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office, detectives think Maus, Reyes and Fernandez were the ones who committed the April 2 crime.

Reyes and Fernandez went back in the early hours Wednesday, authorities say.

The woman told authorities that the men who broke into her home were masked. They beat her in her own bed. They ransacked her home.

Because they covered their faces, the woman couldn't give Pasco sheriff's detectives a detailed description of them.

She said three men attacked her. Late Thursday night, Sheriff's Office spokesman Kevin Doll wouldn't say if authorities are still searching for another suspect in the crime.

"At this point, this is all we are releasing," he said.

The crime sent chills through people living in the neighborhood, which is near Ranch Road in Port Richey.

A woman who answered the door Thursday afternoon near the Maus residence said she usually sees the teenager and other people outside in the driveway, working on cars. But she hadn't seen anyone there Wednesday or Thursday, which she thought was odd. It's never quiet like that. She, like most people in the area who spoke to a reporter, didn't want to be named. They are afraid.

"I think they picked on someone who was weak," she said through her screen door.

Attack prompts move

Another neighbor said the victim — who turns 90 in August — is small, barely 5 feet tall and thin. She said the woman told her that she kicked one of the attackers in his "vital parts" and that the assailants fled.

The woman went to a neighboring home for help and was taken to a hospital, where authorities were called at 6 a.m. Wednesday. The woman was treated for her injuries, including a black eye, and released that afternoon.

Another woman who lives a few doors down from where the attack happened answered her door Thursday holding a paint can. She and her husband and two children rent the house. She was painting it so it would be nice for the landlord when they move, which they are going to do as soon as they find another home.

"It's frightening," she said, also through her screen door. "They had to have been watching her for some time. What if they are watching other people?"

She said the victim lives alone, is hard of hearing and keeps to herself.

"She's a sweet lady," she said.

Reyes and Fernandez are charged with burglary to a residence, grand theft auto, attempted first-degree murder and sexual battery. Maus is charged with grand theft auto and burglary. Reyes and Fernandez have also been charged in burglaries in two Port Richey businesses.

Times researcher Will Gorham contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com.

How to get help

• Secure your home: The National Crime Prevention Council has a checklist to help people shore up their homes against intruders. You can download it at www.ncpc.org/publications/brochures/home-safety/homechk2.pdf. The agency recommends things such as having a dead-bolt lock on metal or hardwood doors and reinforcing any glass panels near doors. Always lock doors, even if you go outside just for a few minutes. Have locks on sliding glass doors and garage doors (even those with automatic openers). For information, call the council at (202) 466-6272.

• Protect yourself: The Pasco County Sheriff's Office also has crime prevention tips on its Web site. Go to pascosheriff.com and click on the "crime prevention" link at the top of the page.

• Protect your community: People who want to do more to fight crime in their communities can become members of the Citizen Service Unit. Go to the sheriff's Web site or call these numbers: (727) 815-7035 or (727) 834-3376.

• For senior services: The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas has a hotline for seniors and caregivers to call for help and information on services available in the area. Calls are answered between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The toll-free number is 1-800-96-ELDER (963-5337) or (727) 217-8111. The Web site is www.agingcarefl.org.

• Phone a friend: Another agency that provides support services for seniors is CARES, which has a program providing telephone reassurance checks for elderly residents. Call (727) 862-9291 or (352) 523-1500 for information. The Web site is www.caresfl.org.

• Support for survivors: Sunrise of Pasco County helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault — regardless of whether the crime was recent or happened years ago. They have many services, as well as counseling and support. The toll-free Florida Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-500-1119. The Sunrise hotline is (352) 521-3120 and the Sexual Assault Toll Free Hotline is 1-888-668-7273. The Sunrise Web site is www.sunrisepasco.org.

Pasco County teens charged in attack, rape of 89-year-old woman 04/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 14, 2009 1:42pm]
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