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Culbreath suspects deny rape

All four defendants admit breaking into the Culbreath Isles home in April. All four acknowledge that a woman who lives there was gang-raped.

Yet each defendant insists he didn't participate in the rape.

The stories they gave to police are being recounted in a Hillsborough courtroom.

On Monday, the tape-recorded statements of Michael Long and Kevin Thomas were played for jurors.

Co-defendant Rudy Barrientos' statement to police wasn't recorded. Tampa Police Detective Dennis Drabiniak recounted the confession, given in Spanish, by Barrientos.

The statement of the fourth defendant, Dennis W. Gonzalez, was also taped. His statement was played in court last week.

Thomas said in his taped statement that the group left their central Tampa neighborhood on April 20 intending to burglarize cars. Once the group reached the West Shore area, however, Long began to talk about robbing "a mansion," Thomas said.

The four men climbed a wall to enter the Culbreath Isles community.

Thomas admitted breaking into the rape victim's house but said he was downstairs while the woman was being raped in an upstairs bedroom.

"I did not have intercourse with that lady, none whatsoever," Thomas said. He said he went upstairs in time to see Long on top of the woman.

Long said he only simulated intercourse with the victim, and then only after being threatened by other members of the group.

"Rape, you know _ it's just not me," Long told police.

Like Thomas, Long said the sexual assault was instigated by Barrientos. Long said he saw Thomas in the woman's bedroom removing a condom, while Gonzalez stood by without pants.

Barrientos told police he waited outside during much of the burglary and assault but was ordered in the house by the three other men. Barrientos, too, claimed he was threatened and simulated intercourse.

Barrientos "explained he thought it was in his best interest to follow suit," said Drabiniak, the detective. "(But) he told me he didn't have sex with her."

_ PAUL HANSON

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