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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - A teen girl who lived in the foster care of a relative of Elijah Dukes has told police the Devil Rays outfielder got her pregnant.
Detectives believe the sex was consensual and no crime was committed, but according to the police report the incident has prompted a state review of the foster home.
The girl was 17 when she became pregnant, but has since turned 18 and left the foster home.
The allegation is the latest in a string of troubles for the 22-year-old rookie.
The inquiry took place in late May, days before a judge barred Dukes from contacting his estranged wife, a teacher who claimed Dukes threatened to kill her and their children.
An anonymous tip sparked the investigation into the pregnancy, which ended with the conclusion that criminal statutes did not apply to consensual sex between a 17-year-old and a 22-year-old.
Under state law, such an act by someone 24 or older with someone 16 or 17 years old is a second-degree felony.
Investigators went to the West Tampa home of Dukes' step-grandmother, Johnnie Johnson, according to Tampa police reports. The Department of Children and Families confirmed Johnson is a licensed foster care provider, but a spokesman declined further comment.
Johnson told police that the teen girl, whose name was not released, lived in Johnson's foster home until she turned 18 in April. Johnson said she learned of the pregnancy about two weeks before the teen left the home.
The girl, who expects to give birth around Nov. 5, told investigators she and Dukes had consensual sex on the living room sofa. She said Dukes got angry when she and another person confronted him about the pregnancy.
"Yeah, we sat down and told him and he got mad and threw a Gatorade at me," she told investigators.
The Devil Rays made no official comment on the matter and team spokesman Chris Costello said Dukes would not either.
"He will not discuss personal matters," Costello said.
Multiple attempts to reach Dukes' agent, Scott Pucino, were unsuccessful.
Police were unable to reach Dukes during the investigation, police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said.
Dukes' estranged wife, NiShea Gilbert, said she was disappointed by the allegations.
"It's hurtful to find out that this might have happened when we were married, but it's not a surprise," she said. "It's not a shock. Anything is expected from Elijah."
The 10-page report details interviews with Johnson, the teen and one of the girl's friends.
Johnson declined to speak with a reporter.
Reached by phone, the girl's friend said both she and the teen did not wish to comment.
Johnson told police her grandson occasionally stopped by her home on Nassau Street, but he never stayed for long. He had met the foster teen, but Johnson didn't think there was any relationship between the pair.
"If they were seeing each other, it had to be real sneaky because I never seen Elijah or (name redacted) like when you like somebody, you make giggly eyes or something, like he never even talked to her that I know of," Johnson told investigators.
She added that she felt an animosity between the two when Dukes and the girl were in her home.
"They never showed any interest in each other, I thought they was mean to each other; they just didn't like each other, honestly," she said.
She accused the teen girl of having sex with someone else, a boy that the girl met at a movie at WestShore Plaza.
In an interview with police, the teen admitted to having sex with the boy at the movies, but she said that happened in August, so he couldn't be the father of a child due in November.
The teen's friend told police that Johnson brought Dukes over to her home at the end of March to tell him the girl was pregnant.
The girl's friend told police that at first, Dukes told the girl that he didn't know how that happened, then added, "well you wanted to do it."
Inside the living room of her modest Ybor City home, Dukes' mother spoke about these latest allegations against her son.
Sports trophies lined the window sills. Diplomas and awards for her children were on display.
"He's doing well on the field," said Phyllis Dukes, 46. "He's doing so good. It's just every time he turns around there's something coming at him."
She hadn't yet talked to her son about the case, but she was skeptical of the allegations. Elijah Dukes has fathered at least five children with four women between 2003 and 2006, according to court records.
She hopes Dukes will end up with another baseball team in another city, that a change would be good for him - and for his family, she said. The Rays have been entertaining trade offers for Dukes.
"If he got blessed to leave them, we're leaving with him," she said. "That's probably the best thing - he go and get a new start."
News researcher John Martin and Times staff writer Eduardo A. Encina contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at (813) 226-3373 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified June 13, 2007, 10:00:57]
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