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Girl describes attack as she headed to school bus stop

April 2, 2013
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Editor’s Note: The Gazette does not typically name victims of sexual assault.

A teenage girl took the stand at a rape trial Tuesday and described how she was intercepted by a stranger near her Colorado Springs school bus stop and then forced into an alley and sexually assaulted.

In a soft but clear voice, the victim identified her assailant in court as defendant Leonard Palmer, a 23-year-old convicted burglar who, according to prosecutors, had escaped from a Louisiana jail three days before the attack.

“Blue tie,” she said with a quick glance in Palmer’s direction, before averting her eyes.

Police say she had a fresh black eye and dried leaves and twigs in her hair when they responded to a 911 call after her assailant let her go.

The attack occurred Oct. 25, 2011, in the 400 block of East Brookside Street, roughly a block from the girl’s Ivywild apartment complex. Now a 14-year-old middle school student, she was 12 at the time.

Colorado Springs police detective Paul Patton testified Tuesday the crime was among the minority of sexual assault cases in Colorado Springs. In most cases, victims know their attackers, Patton said.

Authorities say Palmer was tied to the crime by a DNA match and a confession. His attorney, Cynthia McKedy, told a jury during a brief opening statement Monday that prosecutors would be unable to meet their burden of proof.

Palmer faces 21 criminal counts, including kidnapping, rape and a slew of sentence enhancers with the potential to multiply a sentence. If convicted, he faces the potential of life in prison.

According to her testimony, the girl left her apartment about 8:15 a.m., allowing plenty of time to walk the block and a half to the stop where her bus arrived at roughly 8:25 a.m. Instead, she was accosted by a man who began walking behind her. He asked her directions to a nearby convenience store and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer when he suggested she walk with him, she said.

She tried to run, she told a jury, but the man grabbed her hair.

Gripping her arms, he pushed and pulled her into an alley behind a contracting business, where she was raped on a patch of asphalt near a Dumpster, she said.

When she screamed, her rapist punched her in the eye, leaving a bruise.

“At one point, he did ask me if I was a virgin, and I said “yes,” she said.

When he was finished, her rapist warned that he lived within a block of her and would know if she called police.

“I grabbed my backpack and went back to my apartment,” she said.

Palmer was arrested the same day on charges of escaping the West Carroll Detention Center in Epps, La., where he had been serving time for burglary and forgery. Police say he had been staying at the Sun Springs Motel on South Nevada Avenue with fellow Louisiana escapee Charles Magurn, who was incarcerated for “carnal knowledge of a juvenile.”

Magurn was arrested by police a day before the assault.

Palmer, who denied involvement under questioning by detectives after his arrest, was extradited to Louisiana and returned to Colorado when DNA results were complete.

His trial resumes on Friday and is expected to conclude by early next week.

Contact Lance Benzel: 636-0366 Twitter @lancebenzel

Facebook Gazette Lance Benzel

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