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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.
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A place the residents call hell
Violence is a fact of life at the West Palm Beach housing project where a gang rape occurred.
By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published July 14, 2007
WEST PALM BEACH - Mother and son huddled together, battered and beaten, in the bathroom - sobbing, wondering why no one came to help.
Surely the neighbors had heard their screams. The walls are thin in the violence-plagued housing project.
For three hours, the two say, the 35-year-old Haitian immigrant was raped and sodomized by up to 10 masked teenagers as her 12-year-old son was beaten in another room.
Then, mother and son were reunited to endure the unspeakable: At gunpoint, the woman was forced to perform oral sex on the boy, she told a TV station.
Afterward, they were doused with household cleansers, perhaps in a haphazard attempt to scrub the crime scene. The solutions burned the boy's eyes.
The thugs then fled with a couple hundred dollars' worth of cash, jewelry and cell phones.
In the TV interview, the mother described how she and her son sobbed in the bathroom, too shocked to move. Then, in the dark, they walked a mile to a hospital because they had no phone to call for help.
So far, three teenagers - ages 14, 15 and 16 - have been arrested.
Welcome to Dunbar Village, a place residents call hell.
"So a lady was raped. Big deal," resident Paticiea Matlock said. "There's too much other crime happening here."
Built in 1940 to house poor blacks, Dunbar Village's 226 units sit just blocks from million-dollar condos on the Intracoastal Waterway.
The public housing project's barracks-style buildings are spread across 17 grassy, tree-lined acres surrounded by an 8-foot iron fence. The average rent is about $150 a month.
In the year leading up to the rape, police were called to Dunbar Village 717 times.
Since the June 18 attack, police have increased patrols and blocked off one entrance.
As in other blighted neighborhoods where criminals seem to have free rein, residents live in fear.
"I try to be in my house no later than 7, and I don't come out," said Citoya Greenwood, 33, who lives in Dunbar with her 4-year-old daughter. "I don't even answer my door anymore."
Three in custody
Avion Lawson, 14, Jakaris Sansay Taylor, 15, and Nathan Walker, 16, will be charged as adults, prosecutors said.
Lawson's DNA was found in a condom at the scene, and he admitted involvement, authorities say. Police say Walker's palm print and Taylor's fingerprints were found in the home.
Unlike Taylor, Walker and Lawson did not live at Dunbar, but they visited often. Lawson stayed with his grandmother there. Walker came to hang out and play basketball.
Walker and Lawson both grew up mostly fatherless. Walker's family sometimes lived in old cars or abandoned houses, said his mother, Ruby Nell Walker.
He dropped out of school after spending three years in seventh grade.
Ruby Walker said she was raped twice, at ages 7 and 12.
She has had her own problems - at least nine arrests on charges such as disorderly conduct, aggravated assault and battery, according to state records.
Avion Lawson was a headstrong kid, never listening to his mother, said his cousin, Cassandra Ellis.
"I knew he was bad, but I never pictured him to be that type of bad," Ellis said. She said one traumatic experience may have scarred him - watching his older sister fatally stab a boyfriend.
The rape victim and her son have not returned to Building 1843, Unit 2, since the attack.
The woman fled Haiti with her son seven years ago. With no money, they landed in Dunbar. They almost instantly became targets for crime, standing out as Haitians among the mostly American-born blacks.
The boy's sight has returned. Both mother and son are seeking counseling.
"I have to try and talk to him every day. He's so angry," the mother said. "He said we never should have moved to Dunbar Village."