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#714: Abuse case reveals hidden pain (fwd)
Published Sunday, October 10, 1999, in the Miami Herald___
Abuse case reveals hidden pain _________BY DAVID KIDWELL
As authorities search for the truth in the case of a 12-year-old girl
who says she was raped, beaten and forced into slavery inside a $400,000
home in the upscale bedroom community of Pembroke Pines, two things are
already certain: The lives of an entire family of Haitian immigrants are
in a tailspin, and a withdrawn and scared little girl lives now with a
family of strangers. Her story first unfolded with allegations that she
constantly cleaned house, was never fed enough and was forced to eat in
the garage. She said she was called ``slut'' and ``whore'' and was
repeatedly sexually assaulted by her ``stepbrother'' who often ran
around naked in the house with his friends. That ``stepbrother,'' Willy
Pompee Jr., 20, is being sought by Pembroke Pines police on a warrant
for sexual abuse, a warrant investigators were reluctant to seek for the
first three weeks of their investigation. ``We tried and tried and tried
to get someone to do something, and we got nowhere,'' said 22-year-old
Catalina Restrepo, an intern at the John Casablancas Modeling & Career
Center in Fort Lauderdale, the first employee to befriend the
girl by telephone. ``There is no way this little girl is lying,'' she
said. ``She's so innocent she doesn't even know what any of this
means.'' Her story has launched a federal investigation into whether
Marie and Willy Pompee Sr. were keeping the girl as a servant.
THE POLICE VIEW
Law enforcement sources say there are too many inconsistencies in the
evidence to say for sure. Example: The family is well known at the local
Burger King, where the girl and younger Pompee siblings often ate the
same meals. ``The employees all know them well enough that every time
the family shows up they say, `Here come the four No. 1s' because they
always eat the same thing,'' one law enforcement source said. ``It's not
consistent with a child being starved.'' Numerous interviews and records
obtained by The Herald reveal this account of how the case unraveled:
The girl was brought to the United States illegally and was taken in by
the Pompees, who lived then in Miami Lakes, after her mother died of
AIDS in Haiti six years ago. The mother, believed to have been a
prostitute, used to be a maid for relatives of the Pompees in Haiti.
In July, the girl saw a television ad for the modeling agency in Fort
Lauderdale and called. Restrepo answered. ``I tried to explain to her
that since she was under 18, she had to come in with her parents,''
Restrepo said. ``She said she didn't have any parents and that she lived
with a family that adopted her. I told her to bring them, and she said,
`They hate me.' '' At first Restrepo shrugged it off, but she kept
calling -- three, four, five times a day. ``It was always consistent,''
said Randy Katz, a former teacher who works for the Casablancas agency.
``I started to ask her details, looking for something that wasn't right
about it. I believed her.''
They decided to call the Florida Department of Children and Families'
abuse hotline. Case worker Shiril Thomas-Walsh, 43, a veteran case
worker, returned the call. Sources said Walsh opened an investigation
that day, contacted the girl's school,and made at least a half-dozen
visits to the home -- twice with Pembroke Pines Police on Sept. 10 and
Sept. 15. Each time, the girl denied the abuse, sources said.
Law enforcement sources now say their initial interviews should have
been conducted away from her home. On Sept. 13, Restrepo and her mother
went to the girl's school in Opa-locka -- Florida International Academy
-- to deliver school supplies to the girl. They also gave her $100.
Restrepo met the principal, Sonya Mitchell, who told them she had
concerns of her own. Mitchell later told police the girl was constantly
late, never brought school supplies, and had no appetite. The girl came
to school Sept. 10 clutching her stomach in pain. When Mitchell asked
her what happened and offered to call her parents, the girl balked,
Mitchell later told police. ``Victim said her stepbrother had kicked her
in the stomach,'' reads the police report taken from Mitchell.
Mitchell told police she called DCF's Walsh Sept. 16, 17, 22, and 24,
``with negative results,'' according to police reports. Walsh could not
be reached Friday. On Sept. 28, after Restrepo visited the school a
second time, Mitchell telephoned Opa-locka police. According to sources,
that's when the girl first detailed the story of abuse. They took her
for a physical examination, which showed she was sexually active and
took her into state custody. She also suffers from a venereal disease,
And there are more stories.
Police say the girl has acknowledged repeatedly sneaking out of the
house in the middle of the night to meet boys. Once, she was brought
home by police. She told authorities that friends of another Pompee
sibling, a 12-year-old boy, have repeatedly had sex with her.
One expert interviewed -- speaking generally -- said bizarre stories
from alleged victims of sexual abuse are common and should not be used
to discount the whole story. ``Not every child is a cowering victim,''
said Barbara Holt, treatment director at the Broward County Sexual
Assault Treatment Center. ``Sometimes, if they've actually been abused,
that can lead them to become manipulative and promiscuous. ``I can tell
you this. Completely false reports from children are rare -- less than 5
percent,'' Holt said. Holt declined to discuss this case specifically,
but said alleged child abuse victims should not be interviewed in the
very place in which they are abused. ``There's always the intimidation
factor,'' Holt said.