Editor’s note: Because the defendants in this criminal case are underage, and because the court is still considering whether the defendants may be tried as juveniles, The Billings Gazette has decided not to identify the suspects until the case proceeds in adult court.
The Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office has filed a series of serious adult felony charges against three teenage boys accused of carjacking, kidnapping, assaulting and raping a 28-year-old Billings woman.
Prosecutors allege that a fourth person, a female, approached the victim while she was parked in her vehicle on the South Side on July 17. The female opened the door, punched the victim in the face and then two of the boys pulled her into the back seat. The other boy got into the front passenger seat. The female drove the car away with the victim in the back seat.
One of the boys in the back seat hit the woman in the face with a metal water bottle and she lost consciousness. She awoke at one point, charging documents allege, to one of the boys — the oldest — raping her. The other boy allegedly held her down and continued to punch her in the face.
The woman fought back against the attackers, investigators said, leaving bite marks on the two boys' arms. The car overheated and the female driver allegedly screamed at the woman to help them fix the car, and she threatened to kill the woman and said, “stop screaming or you will see the gun.”
The attackers pushed the broken-down vehicle into a driveway. They hit the woman again and then fled the scene with the victim’s wallet and shoes, investigators allege. The group then broke into the house of a 38-year-old man and stole three bicycles. The owner of the house followed one of the suspects and kept dispatch up to date on the location. Officers arrested the three boys. It was unclear what had happened to the female suspect.
The boys — ages 14, 15 and 15 — pleaded not guilty to the charges in front of Judge Donald Harris in Yellowstone County District Court on Friday. The oldest boy was charged with aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping by accountability, robbery by accountability, assault with a weapon or an alternative of assault with a weapon by accountability, and burglary. All of the charges are felonies and the most serious rape charge carries a possible life sentence.
Bond was set at $100,000 for each of the three boys. A condition, should they post bail, will be to wear GPS monitors.
Prosecutors Brett Linneweber and Morgan Lix will be handling the case for the county and the office of public defense was assigned to represent the boys. Linneweber said that the county had decided to file the charges in district court instead of youth court due to the “egregiousness” of the crimes relative to the boys’ ages. The prosecutor said district court is not only better equipped to handle such a case, but also the outcomes for the nature of the crimes as they relate to rehabilitation and punishment.
“The reason that we have asked that all three be prosecuted as adults is based on the nature of the charges and the egregious allegations behind the charges,” he said. “In this particular instance it is discretionary, and yes, the county attorney mandated that this will go to adult court.”
The youngest boy, 14, was charged with the same crimes but the rape charge was by accountability and not directly. The other 15-year-old was also charged with the same crimes as the 14-year-old except for the alternative assault with a weapon charge. The two have hearings scheduled in August to determine whether they will continue to be charged as adults.