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Detective reveals victim’s first words, ties evidence to defendants

on November 23, 2010

After waking from unconsciousness, the 16-year-old victim of a gang rape wrote notes to a nurse about her feelings of shame that followed the previous night’s attack, along with sadness at her parents’ impending divorce, a detective testified Monday.

In the sixth day of a preliminary hearing, Kenneth Greco, a former detective with the Richmond Police Department, testified that he spoke with the victim at John Muir Intensive Care Unit in Walnut Creek the day after the October 2009 attack at Richmond High School during a homecoming dance.  He said that he and the patient discussed notes she had written earlier when she still had a tube in her throat that was helping her breathe.

Greco testified that he held up the notes to the patient and discussed the meaning of each one.

Do my parents know? read the first note. OMG. I feel bad. Their trust in me will be down and my dad is going to move out Nov 1…

The patient told Greco that she had been at a homecoming dance at Richmond High School, when she got too warm and went to cool off outside. She said she knew that the dance had a “no in-and-out” policy, so she left the dance at about 8 p.m. to call her father for a ride.

Cody Ray Smith, 16, whom she identified as a friend and student at Richmond High, approached her and asked if she wanted to have a drink with him and his friends.

The student told Greco that she thought to herself, “Why not? I’ve known him [Smith] since seventh grade.”

She said that she and Smith walked over to the picnic tables in the courtyard where some people were sitting. There was at least one bottle of alcohol, which she thought contained brandy, and she recalled them passing it around and “chugging” it.

I feel like I’m going to pass out sick, another note said. I feel depressed. I can’t believe I did that. I see double.

In the courtroom, Smith was pulling at hair on his chin, his hand and fingers on his face, glancing at the audience, shifting in his seat, and leaning forward as Greco described the scene of the night.

The girl told Greco that she remembered, “sitting there like a bobble head,” and thought, “Oh my God, everything is spinning,” then woke up in the hospital.

When Greco asked the patient if anything sexual had happened, she was adamant that nothing sexual had taken place. “If anyone would have tried anything sexual,” she said, “I would have said no.”

Greco testified that following the interview with the victim, Greco and a colleague conducted interviews with defendants Manuel Ortega, 20, and Ari Morales, 17, which revealed graphic details of the night.

During an hour-long interview with Detective Greco, Manuel Ortega, who was arrested at the scene, recalled the girl collapsed by a wall in the corner of the courtyard, vomited, and was raped while as many as 20 people watched.

“More people kept coming,” Ortega told Detective Greco during the interview. Ortega said people were taking photos of the victim with their cell phones.

Ortega said the student was on the ground, kicking and saying, “no, no” and said he struck her repeatedly to “make her shut up.”

Ari Morales, 17, told Detective Greco and his colleague that he tried to get into the dance, but forgot his ID, so couldn’t go in.

Detectives found packaged condoms at Morales’ residence that matched the brand and lot numbers of wrappers found at the scene.

Greco, who retired in May, testified that both Morales and Ortega said that Salvador Rodriguez, 22, of Richmond—originally arrested, then released without charges—was the only one trying to protect her. “This is somebody’s sister,” Ortega recalled Rodriguez saying, “and somebody’s daughter.”

Greco testified that Morales told the detectives that when he first arrived on the scene, Elvis Torrentes, 23, Rodriguez, Ortega, and five other friends were there. He said the girl was lying on the ground, awake, but whining and moaning—“really out of it.”

After Rodriguez left, Greco testified that Morales told detectives Ortega tried to force a sexual act on the incapacitated girl, got mad, and that she lost consciousness as Ortega was beating her.

The courtroom was still. Morales and Ortega—sitting next to each other at the corner of a table—never met eyes. Morales leaned his head back, cleared throat, blinked, and rubbed his eyes.

Greco testified that witness Raul Rubio said in a phone interview that he was approached near campus by three males the night of the attack who told him in crude language that an assault was taking place at Richmond High. A female roommate overheard Rubio telling other housemates about the assault and called the Richmond Police Department.

Cody Ray Smith, 16, Elvis Torrentes, 23, Ari Morales, 17, Marcelles Peter, 18, Jose Montano, 19, Manuel Ortega, 20, and John Crane Jr., 43, have all been charged in connection with the rape and beating of the student.

All except Torrentes face life sentences if convicted.

The preliminary hearing, which will determine if the defendants will go to trial, continues today with the cross-examination of Detective Greco.

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