Omaha, Nebraska authorities are under scrutiny for the prosecution of a rape case in which an unconscious 16-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by multiple attackers and photos of the incident were distributed on social media.
According to the Omaha World Herald, the Omaha Police Department bungled the investigation into the rape and failed to bring charges against any perpetrators until a year after the crime, in spite of the presence of eyewitnesses and the availability of DNA evidence.
The girl — called “Anna” by the World Herald — was drugged and raped at a party of a February night in 2014. She was dumped off at her parents’ home in the early hours of Sunday morning, February 16. She had been serially raped, penetrated vaginally and anally, beaten, bitten and urinated on. Her eyes had been blackened and her face was so swollen she was almost unrecognizable.
Anna’s mother took her to Methodist Hospital where she underwent a five-hour rape exam. A clinical examination found five separate tears to Anna’s vaginal tissue and another tear to her rectum. Her clothes and skin were carefully examined for evidence and she was asked to recount what she could remember of the night again and again.
In the days after the party, cell phone photos of what happened began to circulate among students. Anna’s unconscious body had been dragged from one party to another and then a third house. Students took selfies with her battered form and took turns abusing her.
The photos were traced back to the accounts of brother and sister Javohn and Jalyia Templeman. Another student, 18-year-old Brooke Ray, went to school authorities and later became a witness for the prosecution.
Javohn Templeman was found guilty of first-degree sexual assault in October, but no charges were pressed in the case until a year after Anna was attacked. Last February, Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer issued an official apology on behalf of the police department and launched an internal investigation into why the charges had taken so long.
Over the course of the case, charges were filed against Templeman and classmate Nicholas Bregg, who were both 18 at the time. Police allowed lab samples from the rape kit to go unrefrigerated, compromising the chain of evidence and making it impossible to determine whether Anna had been drugged, although there are conflicting accounts of what exactly happened to the kit.
“We can’t speculate,” said prosecutor Beth Beninato, but said that it’s clear that Anna had been given some type of substance.
“There’s no question she was under the influence of something,” Beninato said. “This girl is out of it. This girl is not waking up. This girl is vulnerable.”
The case languished, however, in spite of the positive DNA results in the rape kit. It got handed off from one detective to another and then left alone for months. Only preliminary interviews were performed. Valuable time elapsed for the gathering of evidence.
Detective Robyn Bruning took over the case in December of 2014, but found that no one would cooperate with the investigation. Party attendees had become impossible to track down or speak to.
Arrests were finally made in January of 2015. Bregg took a deal with prosecutors and will be sentenced in January.
“The Omaha Police Department is committed to achieving excellence in our investigations,” said Chief Schmaderer said in a statement. “We take ownership for the unacceptable delay in making arrests in this case. I would like to apologize on behalf of the Omaha Police Department to the victim and her family for the delay.”