Pastor of California Gang Rape Victim Speaks Out

Rev. Jim Wheeler hopes this incident will bring change to the high school.

October 27, 2009, 10:37 AM

Nov. 2, 2009— -- The parents of the 15-year-old California girl who was brutally gang raped outside a high school homecoming dance last week released a statement this weekend asking that the incident provoke change at the school.

"Please do not respond to this tragic event by promoting hatred or by causing more pain," said the statement from the victim's parents, read by Rev. Jim Wheeler of the First Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Calif, according to ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco.

"We've had enough violence already in this place," read Wheeler. "If you need to express your outrage please channel your anger into positive action."

Late last week, police arrested a suspect who they believed played a "significant role" in the gang rape of the teenager but also released another suspect who had been in custody for several days.

There are currently five suspects, ranging in age from 15 to 19, in police custody.

Late Thursday night, police arrested 18-year-old Jose Carlos Montano in connection to the rape.

"Montano played a significant role in what happened to our victim and his arrest was an important one," Richmond Police Department Lt. Mark Gagan told

Gagan said detectives believe Montano had a "bigger role than others" in the two-and-a-half hour gang rape outside Richmond High School's homecoming dance on Oct. 24.

Montano, who is being held on $1.3 million bail, is charged with rape, rape in concert with force and other charges, according to Gagan.

"We will be going after a couple, if not several, people who are implicated in this crime," said Gagan. "We know there were more people back there with our victim."

Another suspect, Salvador Rodriquez, 21, was arrested Tuesday night but was never charged by police. He will be released from a county jail later today, according to ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco.Contra Costa County Deputy District Attorney Dara Cashman said there was not enough evidence against Rodriquez to charge him, according to KGO.

The arrest of Montano and the release of Rodriguez brings the total number of people charged in the attack to five. Four have been formally charged including three juveniles who will be tried as adults. Prosecutors have said they will seek life sentences for the suspects. Because they are being tried as adults, ABC News has decided to identify the suspects.

The gang rape took place in a remote part of the school's grounds while the homecoming dance was taking place. The area, according to a close friend of the victim, was known as a secluded area where couples at the school would often congregate.

As many as 20 bystanders are believed to have watched without intervening and may have even filmed or photographed the attack.

Montano joins five other suspects who police arrested earlier this week.

Manuel Ortega, a 19-year-old former Richmond High School student, is charged with robbery, assault causing great bodily injury, rape in concert [gang rape] and rape with violence, according to Gagan. The DA's office is likely to ask for a life sentence of Ortega, whose bail has been set at $1.2 million.

Life Sentences Being Sought for Gang Rape Suspects

Three other suspects charged include Cody Ray Smith, 15, Abdallah Morael, 16, and Marcelles James Peter, 17. They were all charged as adults.

The DA's office will seek life sentences for all four defendants who have been arraigned so far, Gagan said.

They are being held without bail on charges of rape in concert and penetration with a foreign object in concert. In addition, Morael will be charged with robbery for taking the victim's jewelry during the attack, according to ABC's KGO-TV in San Francisco.

Of the four suspects who were arraigned Thursday, only Smith entered a plea. Smith pleaded not guilty.

All the suspects wore bullet proof vests for their protection to the courthouse, just blocks away from where the rape occurred, according to KGO.

The victim of last weekend's attack is a devout Christian who attended church three times a week and whose friends say had been looking forward to the homecoming dance for weeks.

Kami Baker, one of the victim's close friends, said the girl came to the dance Saturday evening clad in a sparkling purple gown, diamond necklace and matching silver shoes.

"When we walked in the dance together she said, 'I can't wait to get my dance on!'" Baker, 16, told

But what began as a night the teen girls were looking forward to, soon became a nightmare.

"She was perfectly sober at the dance," said Baker, who saw the victim just 15 minutes before she left the dance. "She was bubbly, and kept saying how happy she was to be at the dance."

Baker said that the victim had many close friends who weren't able to attend the dance because of the $10 admission fee. She described her friend as an outgoing student who was enrolled in an honors English class.

She had a long distance boyfriend, according to Baker, and although she had wanted to join the school's photography club, her parents didn't like her to stay after school and her church commitment took up much of her time.

Students Claim Security Was Lax During Homecoming Dance

Baker is one of several community members who claim that security and school officials saw a group of men and teens outside the homecoming dance and did nothing about it.

Students and teachers spoke out at a school meeting Wednesday evening. Some lashed out at the media for spotlighting the rape, but others said they often feel unsafe on campus and that security officials did little to prevent the brutal attack.

"It did not surprise me that something horrific happened there. Something horrific has happened here before," Jessica Price, a teacher at Richmond High School, said at a school board meeting according to KGO. "We know that's a huge area where we've had gang violence and brutality in the past."

Baker lambasted school officials for doing little to break up a large group of men lingering near the gym where the dance was being held.

"I looked outside of the gym and I saw 12 to 15 guys, sitting there, with no [school] IDs," Baker angrily told the school meeting. "The officers, not only did they not check the IDs of those students or men sitting outside of our campus, but the security officers who are employed here did no checking either."

Baker, who has not spoken to the victim since the attack, says the girl's family is devastated and scared.

Students at Richmond met Thursday during second period, said Baker, to discuss their feelings about the attack.

"A lot of people are actually scared about what's going to happen to her," said Baker. "There is a lot of empathy and a lot of people who are scared that it went on for so long and that it could have been them."

A $20,000 reward is being offered by the Richmond Police Department to anyone who can provide information leading to more arrests in the case.