WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – A woman cried and repeatedly begged "don't kill me" as she was raped by a group of masked teenagers in a public housing complex two years ago, a teen defendant testified Wednesday.
The account from Avion Lawson, 16, came during the trial of co-defendants Nathan Walker, 18, and Tommy Lee Poindexter, 20. Lawson, who was 14 at the time, has admitted to taking part in the attacks and pleaded guilty. The victims were expected to testify later in the day.
Police say the defendants lured the woman, then 35, out of her apartment just a few miles from downtown West Palm Beach by claiming her truck had a flat tire. Three masked gunmen then forced her and her son, then 12, back inside. Others soon joined in the attack.
Lawson continued testifying Wednesday, describing the chaotic scene inside the woman's home, with attackers coming and going, raping the woman over and over, sodomizing her, beating the boy and forcing the mother to perform oral sex on her son.
Police say Lawson and the other defendants were among as many as 10 teenagers who attacked the woman and boy, and later doused the victims with cleaning solutions, nail polish remover and vinegar to clean the crime scene.
Walker and Poindexter are facing 14 counts, including sexual battery, burglary, kidnapping, grand theft and promoting sexual performance of a child. A fourth defendant, 17-year-old Jakaris Taylor, is set for trial next month.
All the defendants were teens at the time, but are charged as adults.
They face up to 11 life sentences plus 50 years if convicted on all counts in the June 18, 2007 attack.
Lawson testified Tuesday that he pleaded guilty to take responsibility for his actions, but also acknowledged he hoped to escape life in prison. Even with his guilty plea, Lawson faces the same sentence as the others. The judge, however, has broad discretion and could give him less time.
All the defendants are trying to deflect blame and pointing fingers at the others. Lawson claims he raped the woman once, then left soon after. Poindexter's attorney says her client also raped the woman, but didn't participate in any of the other crimes. Walker's attorney has taken a similar approach.
Lawson said the youths intended to rob the woman, and scoured the house for money and jewelry. He also said he wasn't involved from the beginning, but was invited by Poindexter to enter the house after others were already inside.
Authorities say fingerprints and DNA found on clothing and condoms inside the apartment identified the defendants. They are still seeking additional suspects.
The victims had fled poverty in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, years earlier. With no money, they landed in the Dunbar Village housing project, where they almost instantly became targets for crime, standing out among the mostly American-born black residents.