Why Would Police Arrest a 19-Year-Old Girl for Reporting Her Rape?

Illustration for article titled Why Would Police Arrest a 19-Year-Old Girl for Reporting Her Rape?

In a new piece at Buzzfeed, Katie J.M. Baker investigates a peculiar and horrifying case out of Prince William County, Virginia, concerning the legal aftermath of an egregiously mishandled rape investigation that has permanently scarred two sisters’ lives.

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In 2011, two weeks after Hera McLeod gave birth to Prince, her first child, her fiancé Joaquin Rams allegedly raped her younger sister Lara. When Lara went on the record about being raped (filing her report at the encouragement of the police department, despite being extremely unwilling to do so), the police came to the conclusion that she was lying and summarily charged Lara with making a false report to law enforcement. Hera in turn was charged with with obstruction of justice, allegedly for deleting video footage that depicted her sister’s rape.

Lara’s charges were eventually expunged, but not before her reputation was destroyed. She says she still has severe panic attacks whenever she sees a police officer.

But the worst was yet to come.

In the ensuing battle for custody over Prince, Hera and Joaquin’s infant son, it emerged that not only had Joaquin lied about his name, employment history, and age — he was a decade older than he had claimed — but he had also once been a suspect in his ex-girlfriend’s shooting death and a person of interest in his mother’s death, too, although he was never successfully charged in either case. He had been accused of child abuse by his other son, although never convicted, and ran an amateur porn site.

But thanks to the charges against Hera and Lara, Joaquin was able to portray himself as a comparatively fit parent — and the victim of a smear job. The judge granted Joaquin unsupervised visits. Three months later, EMTs found Prince unconscious on the floor of Joaquin’s house. The 15-month-old died the next day. Months later, Joaquin was charged with capital murder.

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Baker is unflinching and comprehensive in unraveling the biased incompetence at work on the part of involved law enforcement, and consequently, the article is essential. The officers responsible for charging the sisters with crimes haven’t come close to being reprimanded. In fact, they’ve been promoted.


Contact the author at helenbholmes@gmail.com.

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The Gaysian

The most horrifying, and also the most heart breaking section, lies at the end:

Hera hasn’t spoken to Joaquin since the day her parents told her he raped her sister. But, every year on Prince’s birthday, she sends a letter to the authorities who she holds just as responsible for his death. This year, she included a photo of Prince with his two front teeth in, smiling and sitting on a red truck — with his birth and death dates printed above.

“On July 1st, 2015, I would have turned four,” the card said. “May you always remember how the decisions you make impact the lives of innocent people. I will never forget you. I pray you will never forget about me.”

This year, Kimberly Norton, one of the two officers who charged the McLeod sisters, put the card in a new envelope and mailed it back to Hera unopened. She rewrote her return address in block letters. Not Detective Norton, as Hera had written, but “SGT K. NORTON.” She had been promoted. So had Detective Cavender.