A 5-year-old girl was sexually assaulted by a group of boys at an apartment complex in Twin Falls, Idaho, and some local residents are charging the police and city officials with covering up the fact that the boys are from Muslim immigrant families.
Twin Falls has been one of more than a dozen pockets of resistance across the U.S. to refugees arriving from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and other Muslim nations.
A protest rally took place in the city last fall and residents have been seeking more transparency from the College of Southern Idaho, which is resettling the refugees in the area.
The alleged incident occurred on June 2 at Fawnbrook Apartments in Twin Falls. The complex houses at least one immigrant family from a Muslim country in Africa.
WND talked to residents of Fawnbrook who sent photographs of women in burqas on the grounds at different times of day.
Earlier reports that the attackers were Syrian refugees who raped the girl at knife-point were inaccurate, however.
“There was no gang rape, there was no Syrian involvement, there were no Syrian refugees involved, there was no knife used, there was no inactivity by the police,” Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs told the Spokesman Review, a local newspaper. “I’m looking at the Drudge Report headline: ‘Syrian Refugees Rape Little Girl at Knifepoint in Idaho’ – all false.”
But an attack did occur.
Jolene Payne, an 89-year-old retired nurse who lives at the complex, told WND she was an eye witness to the incident and gave her account to police the day after it happened.
“This happened three weeks ago around 3:30. I was sitting on my porch patio and I looked over and saw this boy taking pictures with a camera,” Payne told WND. “He was from Africa or somewhere overseas, standing outside the laundry room taking pictures of kids in the laundry room.”
She said she immediately walked over to the laundry room and opened the door.
“I found them in there. I knew there was something going on because the boy (with the phone camera) was acting funny, he was taking pictures but he was telling the two younger boys what to do,” she said.
She said the boy filming the assault is 13 and the two who were inside the laundry room with the girl are ages 6 and 7 – “all Africans, all three who were there.”
She described them as having “dark cloudy skin and curly hair.”
When she flung open the door she found a disturbing scene.
“The door was cracked enough for him to see the pictures he was taking. I opened that door and I almost fainted when I saw what was going on and here I’m a nurse,” Payne said. “What a pitiful thing for a poor little girl to go through.”
The “little tiny white girl, 5 years old,” was standing there with her clothes off. The two younger boys were also naked.
“The police came and then the next day detectives came and talked to me alone,” Payne said.
“All I know is what I told them. The worst thing was the way they peed all over her clothes and on her too, and I thought that was one of the meanest things I’ve ever saw done,” she added. “And we know those kids must know a lot more than the kids in America of that age. I’ve never seen any of them do anything like that to little girls, and we have a lot of children around here.”
“The little girl had no clothes on. The boys took them off. The littlest boy said ‘we didn’t do it, he told us to,’ pointing to the older boy. They’re just kids that have a mother and they moved here from overseas. The women don’t even talk any English, some of them do, but others don’t. They wear long dresses and long black things on their heads.
‘She was scared to death’
There was no knife involved, Payne said.
“I saw two boys and one little girl scared to death,” she continued. “I told them boys you better get your clothes on. She was scared to death, crying ‘Grandma Jo, Grandma Jo help me.’ I’m not her grandmother but that’s what all the kids around here call me.”
The little girl’s mother is not in good health and her father works during the day, Payne said, adding that the parents are close friends of hers.
Twin Falls has not received any Syrian refugees but it has received 308 refugees from mostly Muslim Iraq and another 161 mostly Muslim Sudanese refugees since 2009, according to the U.S. State Department’s Refugee Processing Center.
Idaho has received 57 Syrian refugees since the Syrian civil war broke out in 2011 but all have been resettled in Boise, not Twin Falls, according to the federal database.
The agencies that resettle refugees in Twin Falls said the apartment complex in question has not been used to house refugees. But refugee families don’t have to stay in their original living arrangements and could have moved there afterward. It is considered a low-income apartment complex.
The Spokesman Review article accused “anti-Muslim and conspiracy-oriented websites” of sensationalizing the story, which was then on social media and “pushed by local anti-refugee activists.”
Zeze Rwasama, director of the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center in Twin Falls, said he was “stunned by the false story,” according to the local newspaper.
“We have not resettled Syrians in this area,” he said. “Now, it’s not because we don’t want to resettle them, I want to make that clear, just because they have not come our way yet. But it is very surprising that people are pushing the Syrians in this area. That shows me that probably there’s a different agenda that I don’t know of. If there is a story to tell, then the story should be all accurate.”
‘Nobody should be stunned’
But nobody should be “stunned” by any report involving refugees, says Ann Corcoran, who has been following the refugee program for the past nine years with the blog Refugee Resettlement Watch.
“The reason that things get embellished is because the federal government and the contractors they hire to resettle refugees have operated in secrecy for 35 years and the public doesn’t know what is going on,” Corcoran told WND. “If they were forthright with us these things wouldn’t get embellished. Have them tell us the truth. If they say this is untruthful then tell us what is the truth, that’s one thing. In this community for this to happen, it confirms what the critics have been saying all along. And you have the left saying everything is just sweetness and light and it’s all such a good thing so when a bad thing happens they have to keep it secret.”
Corcoran also notes that many major media outlets, including the New York Times, rushed out to Idaho to cover the “Islamophobes” who were protesting the arrival of refugees late last year. But those same media outlets are nowhere to be found when a little girl is sexually assaulted by what appears to have been refugee boys.
And it isn’t the first such case, either. In 2009 an 8-year-old girl was gang-raped by four Liberian refugee boys ages 9 to 14.
At a recent Twin Falls City Council meeting, the Spokesman Review reported that several local residents spoke out against the resettlement of refugees in their city. They cited the rape story and others warned that “ISIS is here,” and, “There’s a lot of pornography on foreigner web pages in Twin Falls.” The speakers also objected to the city’s approval of a local mosque, and charged that a Muslim woman had spit on someone at a local grocery store.
Twin Falls council members told the residents they knew nothing about the alleged rape, and that if the residents know anything about a crime being committed, they should call the police.