A passing driver found the 17-year-old girl unconscious in the road near the intersection of Eighth and Magnolia streets, in danger of being run over by semitrailers early in the morning of Feb. 21.
The passer-by and investigators initially thought she was the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
But an observant traffic investigator, now a detective, didn’t think the scene made sense, said Capt. Hayes Minor, head of criminal investigations for the Rogers Police Department. There was no vehicle debris, and the girl’s injuries didn’t seem like those from a vehicle accident.
Detectives, rather than traffic officers, took the case. Medical treatment revealed the girl had been physically and sexually assaulted.
She remained in critical condition for at least nine days, but gradually recovered.
The perpetrator could potentially be charged with attempted murder or first-degree battery, Minor said.
“It’s a pretty unique case,” Minor said. “The brutality of it stands out.”
Almost eight months after the girl was found, no one has been charged in connection with her assault.
Police said the girl was at a party at the Super 8 Motel, just blocks from where she was found, earlier in the evening. Minor would not say if he thought the assault happened at the motel, but said the party was connected to the assault.
At A Glance
To report information about the assault, call the Rogers Police Department at 479-636-4141, or the department’s anonymous tip line at 479-986-3699.
Source: Staff Report
Police treated the motel, now called the Eighth Street Motel, as a crime scene, Minor said.
Two men, Uriel Bahena and Omar Castro, were arrested in March after police, using a search warrant generated from the assault, found stolen property in their motel room. Police have never identified them as suspects in the assault.
Henry Keith, the night manager at the motel, said Bahena and Castro were particularly troublesome guests, playing loud music and shaking vending machines.
“They were always in trouble for something,” he said.
Keith said the men started having other people rent motel rooms for them after Keith told them they were no longer welcome.
Keith said he had a day off the day before the girl was found in the street, and was looking forward to sleeping through the night, but heard a racket from a nearby room.
Bahena, Castro, some other men and some teenage girls were in the room, he said. He said he yelled at the girls to leave the property.
Keith said he thought the injured girl was at the party, but did not know what she looked liked.
He said he didn’t find out until he returned to work that the girl was found in the street or that Bahena and Castro were arrested.
Castro pleaded guilty in June to theft by receiving and residential burglary, and was sentenced to 120 days in jail and five years of probation.
He received credit for 99 days served and was released from the Benton County Jail on July 11.
Bahena pleaded guilty last week to one count of residential burglary and was sentenced to 10 years in the Arkansas Department of Community Correction. Prosecutors said Bahena committed the burglary while wearing an ankle global positioning system tracking device as part of a bond condition for the earlier arrest made after his motel room was searched.
Rumors, Reluctant Witnesses
Minor said the investigation has been hampered by a deluge of rumors spread over Facebook.
Investigators followed up on many leads only to learn potential witnesses knew nothing more than rumors from Facebook, Minor said. He estimated investigators had interviewed at least 30 people in connection with the case, most of them in their late teens or early 20s.
Richard Southard is a former Brooklyn, N.Y., prosecutor turned defense attorney.
He said social media speeds the spreading of rumors, but is overall a useful tool for law enforcement, prosecutors and defense attorneys.
“You’d rather have more information to investigate, even if it turns out to be false, than having no information,” Southard said. “The worst thing is to have no information at all.”
Potential witnesses have been reluctant to talk to the police, perhaps fearing retaliation, Minor said, a regular problem for investigators.
“I wouldn’t say that’s unique to this case,” he said. “We often deal with people who don’t want to get involved for any number of reasons.”
Southard said it’s still very possible that the case will be solved, even eight months later.
The most common scenario is that someone with information will come forward to help themselves, often after they’ve been arrested for another crime, he said.
Sometimes they’ll come forward to get back at someone. In very rare cases, they’ll do it for altruistic reasons.
Whatever the reason, Southard said witnesses should not wait to come forward.
"We’re just looking for the right eyewitness. Somebody knows what happened.”
Capt. Hayes Minor
Rogers Police Department
“The longer it takes for someone to come forward, the more they’ll be questioned about why they waited so long,” he said. “For justice to be served, coming forward sooner is better.”
Minor was reluctant to release details about the case, citing a continuing investigation and the already active rumor mill. He would not release the girl’s name, say if she went to a local school or provide details about her injuries.
He said police continue to talk to the girl. She has been unable to offer many details about the incident, Minor said.
“Her memory was affected by the traumatic experience,” he said. “There was only so much she could recall.”
He said he wanted to keep some details secret in order to help establish the credibility of any witnesses who come forward.
Minor said he’s still confident the case will be solved.
“We’re just looking for the right eyewitness,” he said. “Somebody knows what happened.”