The 17-year-old boy who confessed to the rape of a 69-year-old man in North Chattanooga on Monday, Sept. 29, has recanted his confession and is denying any involvement in the alleged sexual assault. The teen’s family described his state of mind at his juvenile court hearing on Tuesday, Sept 30, as emotional.
Sam Mairs, juvenile court administrator, responded to the family’s claim of the coerced confession the next day, saying that the suspect had confessed to the sexual assault both verbally and in writing. The teen’s family responded on Thursday, Oct. 2, revealing that their son had a learning disability and was taken advantage of by the police.
According to a spokesperson for the Chattanooga police, detectives adhered to both state law and police procedure while they interviewed the teenager, adding that his parents “were present during the interview.” NewsChannel 9 spoke with the suspect’s mother, who said that although she was at the station during the interview, she had not been present in the room when her son is said to have confessed.
The teen has been assigned an attorney by the court to represent him against the charge of aggravated rape that he now faces. The juvenile court affidavit reveals that during the sexual assault, the 69-year-old victim suffered “serious bodily injury” which included “blunt force trauma injuries to his head.” The assault occurred in Chattanooga near 1131 W. Mississippi Ave. while the victim was on a morning run at approximately 7:30 a.m. The location of the rape is near the Normal Park Museum Magnet Upper School.
Immediately after the assault, police in Chattanooga vaguely warned runners and joggers, but did not give details as to what had occurred to prompt the warning. The next day, the public was given more information and advice on how to run safely.
Police initially would not release the exact location of the sexual assault nor the condition of the victim. The chief of staff of the Chattanooga Police Department, David Roddy, said that not pinpointing exactly where the attack occurred was an attempt by police “to get the entire community to come together.”
According to RAINN, the National Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, 10 percent of the victims of sexual abuse, assault and rape in the United States are men. “Sexual assault” includes many different offenses, from unwanted sexual touching to forced penetration. Male victims of rape often blame themselves for not being “strong enough” to ward off their attacker and prevent the rape. In addition, male victims of rape may find that there is less support given to them than would be given to a woman.
Although Tennessee state law allows the names of juveniles charged with certain violent crimes to be released, it does not allow media to attend proceedings in juvenile court. Because the suspect is a juvenile, the Guardian Liberty Voice is not naming him.
It is unclear what led police to arrest the 17-year-old suspect. A petition filed by the district attorney is requesting the suspect be tried as an adult. While the ruling on that petition is pending, the 17-year-old is being held without bond.
By Jennifer Pfalz