Grand jury indicts teen in Elkton rape cases
— 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
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.”
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.