Grand jury in­dicts teen in Elk­ton rape cases

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CARL HAMIL­TON

ca­hamil­ton@ce­cil­whig.com

— A Ce­cil County grand jury has handed down a 23-count in­dict­ment against a 16-year-old Elk­ton boy ac­cused of rap­ing two women — one at knife­point, the other at gun­point — and of at­tempt­ing to sex­u­ally as­sault three oth­ers in down­town Elk­ton be­tween Septem­ber 2015 and July, court records show.

The grand jury con­cluded that there is prob­a­ble cause to sup­port the charges against the sus­pect, Isiah Lavonte McCargo, and to bound him over for trial af­ter pros­e­cu­tors had pre­sented its case against the teen to the 23-mem­ber panel last month.

Elk­ton Po­lice De­part­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tors had ar­rested McCargo at his res­i­dence in the unit block of Tran­som Court on Aug. 8 and charged him as an adult in Ce­cil County District Court with two counts of first-de­gree rape, three counts of at­tempted se­cond-de­gree rape, armed rob­bery and sev­eral other of­fenses.

McCargo had been sched­uled for two pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings on Sept. 16 and an­other on Sept. 26. In a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, pros­e­cu­tors present tes­ti­mony and ev­i­dence to con­vince a judge that prob­a­ble cause ex­ists for a sus­pect to stand trial. De­fense lawyers can cross-ex­am­ine the state’s wit­nesses in such a pro­ceed­ing. The judge then rules if the ac­cused should stand trial or not.

How­ever, ex­er­cis­ing an­other charg­ing op­tion, pros­e­cu­tors elected to present their case against McCargo to a grand jury in­stead. A

ELK­TON

grand jury ses­sion is held pri­vately and, unlike a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, the de­fense isn’t per­mit­ted to at­tend and, there­fore, can­not chal­lenge the state’s case.

The grand jury handed up its in­dict­ment against McCargo on Aug. 24, and that charg­ing doc­u­ment was made pub­lic ear­lier this week. Ce­cil County Cir­cuit Court records list two counts of first-de­gree rape and three counts of at­tempted se­cond-de­gree rape among the 23 charges against McCargo.

His jury trial is sched­uled to start Feb. 28 and is ex­pected to last four days, court records show.

McCargo, who would have been a ju­nior at Elk­ton High School this aca­demic year, re­mains in the Prince Ge­orge’s County De­ten­tion Cen­ter in lieu of $300,000 bond, ac­cord­ing to court records. That de­ten­tion cen­ter has a seg­re­gated sec­tion for in­car­cer­ated ju­ve­niles.

In the old­est al­leged in­ci­dent, the teen stands ac­cused of rap­ing and rob­bing a woman at knife­point in an al­ley near Mack­all and Osage streets ei­ther late at night or early in the morn­ing at some point be­tween Septem­ber 2015 and De­cem­ber, when he was 15.

But the rape de­fen­dant’s mother, Michelle Ham­mond, has main­tained that it would have been im­pos­si­ble for her son to have com­mit­ted that crime be­cause he was liv­ing near Ris­ing Sun, some 15 miles away from Elk­ton, with his for­mer Ce­cil County Lit­tle League Foot­ball coach and his fam­ily.

McCargo lived with that fam­ily from June 2015 un­til early Jan­uary, she told the Whig.

“He was liv­ing with his old foot­ball coach and his fam­ily in Ris­ing Sun at that time. He was en­rolled in Ris­ing Sun High School and that’s where he at­tended school. He had no rea­son to be in Elk­ton and no way to get to Elk­ton on his own, even if he did have a rea­son. He doesn’t drive,” Ham­mond told the Whig last month.

She added, “There is no way he could have done it. Po­lice are say­ing my son was lin­ger­ing in town (Elk­ton) in the mid­dle of night, fol­low­ing pros­ti­tutes and care­fully se­lect­ing his vic­tims. But he was still able to get back in time to go to school in Ris­ing Sun the next morn­ing? It’s just not pos­si­ble.”

Deanna Hen­drick­son, the wife of McCargo’s for­mer foot­ball coach, also con­tended that McCargo did not have op­por­tu­nity to com­mit last year’s rape. Hen­drick­son, a high school friend of Michelle McCargo, told the Whig last month that the teen was heav­ily in­volved in her fam­ily’ many ac­tiv­i­ties while liv­ing with them.

McCargo was rarely out of their su­per­vi­sion, ex­cept when he was at school and when he was sleep­ing in his bed­room.

“That’s why none of this makes sense and why we’re so shocked. You’re telling me that he snuck out a win­dow in our house in Ris­ing Sun, hopped on this mys­te­ri­ous bi­cy­cle, rode 20 miles to Elk­ton, looked for a pros­ti­tute and then did hor­ri­ble things to her and then rode his bi­cy­cle back 20 miles to our home,” Hen­drick­son said.

In­for­ma­tion gath­ered dur­ing the EPD in­ves­ti­ga­tion, how­ever, shows other­wise, ac­cord­ing Capt. Joseph Zurolo, an agency spokesman.

“What I can tell you is our in­ves­ti­ga­tion re­vealed that Isiah fre­quented those lo­ca­tions where the sex­ual as­saults oc­curred. It isn’t like Ris­ing Sun is 100 miles away (from Elk­ton),” Zurolo com­mented. “Also, the grand jury be­lieved there was enough ev­i­dence that he could have got­ten there and com­mit­ted the crimes.”

McCargo also stands ac­cused of rap­ing a 22-yearold woman at gun­point in a se­cluded spot be­hind a res­i­dence on Cur­tis Av­enue some­time be­tween April 1 and May 16.

In ad­di­tion, McCargo stands ac­cused of try­ing to rape a woman shortly be­fore mid­night July 14 in the 200 block of West High Street; an­other woman about 3:15 a.m. May 31 near Howard and South Bridge streets; and an­other woman about 5 a.m. that same morn­ing near the U.S. Post Of­fice on West Main Street. The women were able to break free, po­lice re­ported.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve that McCargo was “very se­lec­tive” in choos­ing his vic­tims and cal­cu­lat­ing in car­ry­ing out the at­tacks, which typ­i­cally oc­curred late at night or early in the morn­ing, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

McCargo me­thod­i­cally preyed on women who, due to their “high-risk lifestyles,” in­clud­ing pros­ti­tu­tion and drug use, were con­sid­ered easy tar­gets be­cause they would be less likely to re­port the at­tacks, po­lice said.

The sex­ual as­saults oc­curred af­ter McCargo, who was of­ten seen on a “moun­tain style bike,” ap­proached the women and en­gaged them in con­ver­sa­tion be­fore forc­ing them to nearby se­cluded ar­eas, po­lice added.

EPD in­ves­ti­ga­tors were able to de­velop McCargo as a sus­pect dur­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that, ac­cord­ing to court records, was trig­gered by a con­fi­den­tial in­for­mant who had re­ported “street talk” con­cern­ing a rapist prey­ing on pros­ti­tutes in the com­mu­nity.

At the time of the last four in­ci­dents, McCargo was liv­ing in Elk­ton again with his mother — mean­ing the lo­gis­tics al­ibi prof­fered by Michelle Ham­mond and Hen­drick­son re­gard­ing the first sex­ual as­sault can­not be made in the lat­ter cases.

It makes no dif­fer­ence, though, ac­cord­ing to Ham­mond.

“Any­one who knows my son, knows his char­ac­ter. He was raised to re­spect women, and he does,” Ham­mond said. “Any­one who knows my son knows that he didn’t do it, that he couldn’t have done it. I’m a woman be­fore I’m any­thing else, so, if some­one is out there do­ing this, vi­o­lat­ing women, I want them caught. But the per­son do­ing this is not my son.”

It’s an as­ser­tion also backed up by He­len Hen­nessey, mother of McCargo’s for­mer girl­friend, who has known McCargo since third grade and wel­comed him into her home on a reg­u­lar ba­sis as a part of her fam­ily.

“I took him to and from foot­ball prac­tices and even tied his tie when he es­corted my daugh­ter to home­com­ing,” she told the Whig in an email last month. “He was never vi­o­lent with ei­ther of my teenage daugh­ters and I have no fear of leav­ing them alone in a room to­gether. Isiah is a shy, laid back kid. He would never do or say any of those things to a lady, he is noth­ing but re­spect­ful.”

PHOTO COURTESY OF DEANNA HEN­DRICK­SON

Isiah McCargo smiles in­side the Hen­drick­son fam­ily’s Ris­ing Sun-area home, where he lived the last four months of 2015, be­fore or af­ter at­tend­ing a high school for­mal.

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