The victim of a Sept. 6, 2004 rape in Potomac sat silently in the first row of the court gallery with her mother.
Chris Benbow, one of the five men charged in connection with the 19-year's rape, spoke in a low voice as he pled guilty to 1st degree rape and 1st degree burglary on Monday, April 25, under an agreement negotiated with the State.
Benbow, 17, was charged as an adult in the crime and a request to move his case to juvenile court was denied in an earlier hearing.
According to police reports, court documents, and statements made in court, four men entered the victim's Falls Chapel Way home during the early morning hours of Sept. 6.
The men were Benbow; Schmouree Fordyce-Williams, then 19, of Potomac; Gujan Lee, 18, of Washington D.C., and Kevin Croker, then 18, of Potomac.
According to prosecutors, Fordyce-Williams, Lee and Benbow woke up the woman in her basement bedroom, questioned her about valuables in the house, threatened her and raped and sexually assaulted her. Croker entered the victim's bedroom but then left the house and did not participate in the sex crimes. He later returned to help take items from the house, according to court testimony.
A fifth man, Daniel Smith took a key from the house while at a party two days earlier with the intention of coming back and stealing a laptop computer and other items, but did not enter the house with the other men Sept. 6.
UNDER THE AGREEMENT, Benbow's sentence will be limited to 20 years of incarceration, even though the two charges he pled guilty to carry a possible sentence of life plus 20 years. Under the agreement, four counts on three charges were dropped and Benbow agreed to testify against his co-defendants if asked by the state.
Judge William J. Rowan III accepted Benbow's plea after a lengthy examination to establish his understanding of the charges and the agreement.
Benbow is scheduled to be sentenced July 15, but sentencing may be delayed until fall or later if Benbow is asked to testify against co-defendants. Gujan Lee is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 19.
Both Benbow's attorney, Tara Harrison, and Assistant State's Attorney Deborah Armstrong asked the judge to clarify information for Benbow, who Harrison said, has significant learning disabilities.
Armstrong offered a detailed account of the rape. She said the victim had a pillow placed over her head and was asked "if she wanted to end up in the river."
Harrison said that Benbow was only admitting that he had sex with the woman without her consent and entered the house with the intention of stealing property. Many of the details of Armstrong's account were "not true" she said.
Benbow, of Upper Marlboro, became acquainted with the other four co-defendants because he had an aunt that lived in Avenel, according to statements made in court.
CROKER WAS INDICTED by a grand jury on more than six counts, including robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon, first degree burglary and theft greater than $500. He will face those charges in juvenile court, because of a ruling by Circuit Court Judge Louise G. Scrivener on Feb. 24.
Smith pled guilty Feb. 23 in Circuit Court to three counts: first degree burglary, conspiracy to commit first degree burglary and accessory after the fact to robbery with a dangerous and deadly weapon.
Smith, a former resident of Avenel who currently lives in Germantown, faces a maximum sentence of 45 years in prison.
Fordyce-Williams is scheduled to go on trial May 23 on charges including first-degree rape and first-degree sexual assault. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all charges.
Lee also faces a possible life sentence and is scheduled to go on trial Sept. 19.
* The following account of the events of Sept. 4-6 is drawn from police reports, court documents, and statements in court by Assistant State’s Attorney Deborah Armstrong:
On Sept. 4 Daniel Smith, then 18, attended a party at the home of the victim on Falls Chapel Way in Potomac. Seeing some of the valuables inside, he took a key with the intention of later returning with friends to burglarize the house. Over the next two days, Smith had several phone conversations with Kevin Croker, then 17, about possibly returning to the house.
Croker was at the time dating another Churchill student and the sister of Schmouree Fordyce-Williams, one of the co-defendants in the case. Croker was also the owner of a gun later used in the commission of the crimes. Testimony indicates that the gun was BB gun, but because Croker disposed of the gun after the fact and it was never recovered, that cannot be verified, according to court documents.
Chris Benbow, 16, Schmouree Fordyce-Williams, then 19, and Gujan Asimlee Lee, were friends of Croker and Smith. Croker and Fordyce-Williams were high school classmates and Benbow, of Upper Marlboro, knew the others because he has an aunt who lives in the Avenel neighborhood of Potomac, and often spent time there, according to court documents.
At around 11 p.m. on Sept. 5 several of the co-defendants were involved in the robbery at gunpoint of two 16-year-old girls at the Avenel Swim Club, according to Deborah Armstrong, assistant state's attorney. The victims were hanging out in the swim club parking lot when a dark SUV passed by and the car’s occupants yelled something at them. Shortly thereafter, three black males, one with a gun, emerged from the open fields around the parking lot and demanded cell phones, jewelry and money from the victims. Police reports say that Lee wielded Croker’s gun in the robbery and Croker was the driver of one of the vehicles involved in the incident but did not approach the victims at the time of the robbery itself. No charges have been filed in connection with the Avenel robbery. The investigation is ongoing.
At around 3:40 a.m. on Sept. 6, Smith, Croker, Lee, Fordyce-Williams and Benbow approached the rape victim’s house on foot with the intention of entering with the stolen key and stealing items from her home, according to court documents. When they reached the house, Croker, Lee, Fordyce-Williams and Benbow masked their faces and went in, but Smith decided not to enter the house and walked away.
The four men entered the 19-year-old victim’s basement bedroom and woke her up at gunpoint. Croker left the house, apparently looking for Smith, as the other three defendants repeatedly raped and sexually assaulted the victim as the victim's parents and sister remained asleep in the house, according to court documents.
The three men then demanded money and drugs. When the victim told them she did not have any money or access to her parents’ ATM pin numbers, the men took several laptop computers, a wallet, and the victim’s sister’s purse, according to court documents.
Croker later returned to the victim’s house and took items together with the other defendants. The defendants rendezvoused at Fordyce-Williams’ house around the corner from the victim’s, where three of them had been before going to the victim’s house.
Tara Harrison, attorney for Chris Benbow, said that Benbow, who pleaded guilty this week, was only admitting that he had sex with the woman without her consent and entered the house with the intention of stealing property. Many of the details of Armstrong's account were "not true" she said.