Montgomery County Police arrested two Winston Churchill High School students and a third man last week following the rape and robbery of a 19 year-old Potomac woman three days earlier.
Schmouree Fordyce-Williams, of the 12000 block of Gatewater Drive in Potomac, Kevin Curtiss Croker, of the 8800 Block of Watts Mine Terrace in Avenel in Potomac, and Chris Benbow of Upper Marlboro, are charged with first-degree rape and first-degree burglary. Fordyce-Williams and Croker are both charged with use of a handgun in commission of a felony and Fordyce-Williams is also charged with first-degree sexual assault.
Fordyce-Williams is 19. Benbow,16, and Croker, 17, were charged as adults. All of the suspects will face possible life sentences if convicted.
Each of the three defendants was assigned $250,000 bail in spite of the state's objections in separate bail hearings. At press time, only Croker had been released. As a condition of his release, Croker is not allowed to have any contact with either of his co-defendants, the victim or victim's family, or any of the state's witnesses and will be electronically monitored using GPS equipment. It is not clear whether he will be able to return to Churchill pending his trial.
According to Montgomery County police, during the early morning of Sept. 6 the three men and a fourth suspect who is still missing entered the victim’s home on the 9300 block of Falls Chapel Way through a basement-level sliding door. They demanded money and marijuana and then raped and sexually assaulted the victim before leaving with a wallet, a stereo, several laptop computers and other items. The victim was examined and treated at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital with injuries consistent with sexual assault, according to police reports.
Several hours earlier, at approximately 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 5, two young women were robbed at gunpoint on Oaklyn Drive in Potomac. A police spokesperson said that investigators do not believe the crimes are related.
However, at a Sept. 10 bond hearing for Croker, Maryland Senior Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Armstrong said that the defendant’s involvement in the Falls Chapel Way case came “hours after he’d been involved in another robbery.”
The defendant’s attorney, Robert Greenberg, replied that no charges had been filed in that case. Greenberg said in an interview that his client "has not been in any trouble before" and that "his connection to this incident was by virtue of the fact that he was friendly with a girl who was a sister of one of the other co-defendants."
Greenberg said he will challenge the state's decision to prosecute Croker, 17, as an adult. He said he will file a petition for a "reverse waiver" asking the circuit court to remand the case to juvenile court. "I don't feel it's appropriate [to charge Croker as an adult] given that he has no prior history in the justice system."
By statute, individuals who are 16 who are charged with first-degree rape are charged as adults. "That wasn't a discretionary call on our part" Armstrong said.
The relationship of the suspects to the victim remains unclear. "We believe it was not a random crime,” said Derek Baliles, public information officer of the Montgomery County Police. “At least one of the suspects had at least some knowledge of who lived there. We're still working to confirm the extent of the relationship."
According to Baliles and information gathered from charging documents, the suspects entered through an unlocked sliding glass door in the rear of the house, woke the victim in her basement bedroom and displayed a handgun. The victim’s parents and younger sister remained asleep in the house during the crime.
According to court documents, Fordyce-Williams told police that the suspects rendezvoused at his house on Gatewater drive shortly after the crime. The 12000 block of Gatewater Drive and the 9300 block of Falls Chapel Way are less than two-tenths of a mile apart.
“These types of things don’t happen very often in this county,” said Baliles. “This case involved burglary and rape and sexual assault. The combination of those is very rare.”
Baliles recommended that all residents use caution by locking up.
"We didn't grow up having to lock our doors, our windows. But because there are a few people out there who take advantage of this we have to be very cautious," said Baliles. "The trust many of us grew up with has been shattered."