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Survivor of rape sues attackers

Teens’ parents, complex where assault occurred also defendants

By Sara Eaton

The Journal Gazette - Jan. 24, 2005 - Jessica Thompson is hoping to send a message.

On Jan. 10, 2003, two teens forced their way into her Hobson Road apartment, which she shared with two roommates – one male and one female. She was 19 years old and seven months pregnant with her second child.

The teens – Benjamin Rose, then 16, and Christopher Caskey, then 17 – held the three roommates at gunpoint. In addition to stealing some of their belongings, Rose and Caskey forced both women to have sex with them, to perform sex acts on each other and Rose and Caskey. They also made Thompson’s female roommate perform sex acts on their male roommate.

Throughout the attacks, Rose and Caskey threatened all three victims and made threats against Thompson’s fetus.

The crimes were described by Allen Superior Court judge as one of the most cruel crimes he’s seen in his 30-year legal career – half as an attorney and half as a judge.

Now the 21-year-old rape survivor wants to send a message to parents and apartment complexes. Thompson has sued, seeking damages from her attackers, their parents, the apartment complex where the crimes occurred and its parent company.

“Maybe they will think about it before they don’t do anything again,” she said of Embassy Apartments, which has since been renamed as Cobblestone Villas.

About five months before the attack, Thompson said she reported that the peephole in her apartment door was damaged. Looking out only revealed a fuzzy view of light and dark, meaning residents couldn’t tell whether a person stood in front of the door or if hallway lighting was creating a shadow, she said.

“I tried to clean it with Q-Tips,” she said, motioning with her hand.

The peephole was never fixed, and Thompson’s attorney, Brent Vian, believes the crimes could have been prevented had maintenance simply replaced it.

“I was astounded to learn it only cost $3 or $4 and less than three minutes to replace,” Vian said. He removed the damaged peephole himself to preserve it as evidence and replaced it with a new one he purchased at a local hardware store.

The Journal Gazette normally does not identify victims of sexual crimes, but in this case, Thompson agreed to be named and talk about her situation.

Both attackers have been sentenced to more than 100 years in prison for various criminal charges to which they pleaded guilty, but Thompson said the civil lawsuit is still important. She wants the apartment complex to take quick action when complaints are lodged concerning security and she wants parents to be more knowledgeable about what their kids are doing.

In her lawsuit, Thompson is seeking damages for emotional distress, physical injuries and loss of income as well as continuing medical expenses incurred as a result of the attack by Rose and Caskey. In addition to naming Rose and Caskey on the lawsuit, Thompson has named their parents – Amy Rose and Denzil and Judith Caskey. A third male, Joseph McCoy, is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit because he was with Rose and Caskey in the hours before they forced their way into Thompson’s apartment.

Thompson alleges that the boys’ parents are liable for their sons’ criminal actions that resulted in injury to her. The boys were minors at the time and lived with their parents and, according to the lawsuit, had a duty to supervise and control their sons.

The lawsuit specifically states that Rose, Caskey and McCoy were consuming alcohol, getting high on drugs including but not limited to Ecstasy and in possession of a handgun, all while at Amy Rose’s house.

Amy Rose declined to comment about the lawsuit. Attempts to reach Denzil or Judith Caskey and Joseph McCoy were not successful.

Indiana law allows parents of minors to be held liable for up to $5,000 in damages as long as the parent has custody of the child and the child lives with the parent.

The lawsuit also seeks damages from the apartment complex, stating the complex failed to maintain security measures for its residents. Specifically, the lawsuit states that the complex breached its contract with Thompson because her peephole was damaged or painted over preventing her from seeing who was outside her door.

Employees from Cobblestone Villas declined to comment to The Journal Gazette. Meanwhile, more than a dozen messages to the complex’s parent company, Corporation for Community Housing, based in Chicago, have not been returned.

Dallas-based Cliff Management, the former parent company of the complex, has also been named as a defendant. A representative who refused to identify herself declined to comment on behalf of Cliff Management.

Thompson’s motivations for filing the lawsuit – to send a message and spur change – are not all that different from other victims of crime who file civil litigation, said Jim Ferguson, director for the National Crime Victim Bar Association.

The Washington, D.C.-based association’s sole purpose is to provide information to crime victims about pursuing civil litigation and provide attorney referral to victims. The association also offers seminars for crime victim service providers – such as sexual assault treatment center nurses – so the victim is informed of the option to file civil suits early on after the crime.

“We hear from many crime victims that they want to pursue a civil case so that other people do not have to go through the hell they experienced,” Ferguson said.

Ferguson said more and more victims of crime are taking civil action. In part, he said, more civil lawsuits by crime victims are the result of more people becoming aware that it is an option. Some high-profile cases, such as civil suits against O.J. Simpson, Kobe Bryant or the Catholic church clergy-abuse lawsuits have brought attention to the option, he said.

Thompson’s decision to sue the parents is not uncommon either, Ferguson said. Many states, like Indiana, have statutes to address parental liability, but the flaw is that they often cap the amount of damages a victim may receive, he said. The $5,000 outlined in Indiana law is on the low end, he said.

Thompson said she hopes the lawsuit will change the way security requests are handled by complexes. The peephole was not her only problem, she said.

Her then 2-year-old son found syringe needles in the apartment and when she turned them into the office, employees had little to no reaction – not what she was hoping for, she said. And after the attacks, the complex replaced a missing square of carpet that police cut out for evidence with a piece that didn’t match and expected Thompson to pay for the carpet, she said.

Upon moving out, her security deposit was not returned, she said. Thompson, who said she looks at men differently since the attack, vows to never again live in an apartment complex.

Fidgeting with her fingers, Thompson said she never found out how or why the two teens chose her apartment.

Both Rose and Caskey wrote letters to Thompson before their sentencings, but she refuses to read them, and said she will never have interest in doing so.

It won’t change what happened to her, she said.

She is trying to move on with her life, however.

Thompson, who had to be treated at the emergency room and then later return to the hospital because of premature contractions caused by the attacks, successfully delivered her second baby boy relatively on schedule, she said.

Thankfully, she says, her younger son hasn’t shown any signs of lingering effects from the attacks and her older son, who slept through the crimes, doesn’t have any recollection of what happened.

As a parent of two boys, Thompson is hopeful her lawsuit also will teach other parents to be more knowledgeable about their children.

“You should know what your kids are doing,” she said. “I’m a mom. I know what my son is doing all the time. If I knew he was doing something criminal, I’d put an end to it.”

 

 

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