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November 23, 2002

Police probe a 4th Somerville assault

From: Boston Globe, MA
Nov. 23, 2002

Seek suspects in attack on girl near Foss Park

By Peter Demarco, Globe Correspondent, 11/23/2002

SOMERVILLE - Police are searching for as many as four assailants who may have sexually assaulted a teenage girl around 5 p.m. on a quiet residential street Thursday - the fourth such attack on a young girl in the Foss Park area since late October.

As of last night, police had not released descriptions of the possible assailants and gave few details about the alleged attack, which took place in an area between two homes on Walnut Street, apparently near the Pearl Street intersection.

At a press conference in police headquarters yesterday, Somerville's mayor, Dorothy Kelly Gay, and Police Chief George McLean declined to describe the attack or discuss the victim but urged neighbors and parents to be on alert.

''I'm telling parents tonight to watch their children,'' Gay said. ''Watch who they're with. Make sure they are accompanied by an adult.''

Police Lieutenant Francis Kelly, a department spokesman, said a description of the assailants doesn't seem to link them to MS-13, a local Salvadoran gang whose members were charged with raping two deaf teenage girls in Foss Park on Oct. 24. Those involved in Thursday's attack ''were definitely not Hispanic males,'' he said.

On Nov. 9, a 10-year-old girl, who is also deaf, was raped in a home a few blocks from the park. Police arrested her alleged assailant last week.

Bill Roche, an alderman who represents East Somerville, where all the attacks have occurred, said police told him about Thursday's alleged assault while an aldermen's meeting was in session. Roche is the chief proponent of a controversial ordinance that would give Somerville police broad powers to arrest suspected gang members for loitering.

Since the Nov. 9 rape, ''there has been increased police presence in the area,'' Roche said. ''There have been marked and unmarked vehicles, as well as State Police. I think the local police department and the mayor have made this a priority.''

Roche said police told him that four assailants raped the girl around 5 p.m. Thursday. The girl, believed to be around 14 years old, was initially taken to Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, he said. Roche did not know the girl's condition or how the crime was discovered.

An employee of a middle school within walking distance of the crime scene said authorities notified teachers yesterday that a student had been attacked Thursday. The victim is in seventh or eighth grade, the employee said.

A spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said the office's child abuse unit had been contacted regarding the alleged sexual assault. The spokeswoman said that an attack occurred in the ''early evening'' in Somerville on Thursday, but would not confirm the nature of the assault.

A storekeeper at the intersection of Pearl and Walnut said police in cruisers blocked traffic on Walnut at about 5 p.m. Thursday for about half an hour.

That intersection is several blocks south of Foss Park and just north of Somerville High School. Residents along the street said their neighborhood hasn't experienced the sort of gang activity that has been on the rise in East Somerville, where the MS-13 is active.

''It's safe, but Pearl and Walnut streets are very, very dark,'' said Pearl Street resident Jorge Ortiz, who has three young children. ''I think it's important for the police to come around because it is so dark.''

Somerville police urge anyone with information regarding Thursday's attack to call a confidential tip line at 617-625-6173.

Farah Stockman of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page B1 of the Boston Globe on 11/23/2002.
© Copyright 2002 Globe Newspaper Company.