Hearings delayed for West Memphis teens accused of raping fellow student at school

WEST MEMPHIS (Evening Times, KATV) - Hearings for three West Memphis High School students charged with raping and beating a male special needs student inside a school bathroom have been delayed until August 2.

Orlando Hamilton, Terrance Jones and Kenneth Bedford were 15, 16 and 17 years old respectively at the time but are all charged as adults. Motions in the case had been scheduled to be heard June 10 in Circuit Court with trial starting June 17.

The suspects told police they were skipping class when the victim entered the bathroom and they began taunting him and robbed him. Beyond that, their statements differed with each minimizing his own role and implicating the others. One denied that the sexual assault happened at all.

The victim said he was going to the bathroom when the three teens came up behind him and forced him to the ground. He said one teen held him down while another raped him. He told police he went to the principal but was sent back to class and told that the matter would be handled the next day. He told an aunt after school who then contacted police.

West Memphis High School Principal Jon Collins, who has since been named superintendent, said there were no signs of abuse on the victim and school officials at first believed they possibly were dealing with an attempted robbery and nothing more.

A school official whose identity has been withheld took the boy back to the classroom and then promptly reviewed footage on the surveillance camera in the hall, positively identifying Jones, Bedford and Hamilton.

The school official then went to the three boys' 7th period special needs class and found they had skipped class.

The term "special needs student" is a catch-all category for students with a wide range of mental, emotional, physical, familial or social deficiencies. The specific nature of the "special needs" of the students involved in this case has not been made public with school officials citing privacy concerns.

In an interview shortly after the incident became public knowledge in March, Collins said administrators did not call the WMPD or the school resource officer to alert them about the robbery attempt and the identities of the fugitives because school was almost out for the day. Administrators, not realizing the severity of the case, had decided to handle the matter first thing in the morning.

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