TACOMA, Wash. - Prosecutors say a 14-year-old boy charged in the rape and attempted murder of 7-year-old Puyallup girl should be charged as an adult.
Melvin Edwards was charged with attempted first-degree murder, first-degree rape, first-degree rape of a child and first-degree kidnapping. The Pierce County Prosecutor's Office also filed a motion to have the Edwards' case moved out of juvenile court so that he can be prosecuted as an adult.
"Rarely do we ask the court to treat a 14-year-old offender as an adult,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist, “but this is one of those few cases where the severity of the offense and the safety of our community call out for adult-sized accountability.”
If Edwards was prosecuted as a juvenile, if convicted, he would be facing a maximum sentence of six-and-a-half years. If prosecuted and convicted as an adult, he could be sentenced to 30 years or more in prison.
Juvenile prosecutor Kevin Benton said the move to try Edwards as an adult was because of the brutality and severity of the circumstances.
“It’s a severe and horrible crime so at this point it merits that step," said Benton.
Edwards pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday afternoon. He is being held without bail until a decision is made as to whether he'll be charged as an adult.
Police said the attack occurred on Wednesday in a heavily wooded area near the Glenbrook apartment complex in Puyallup where they victim and the boy both live.
Charging documents said Edwards asked the victim to walk down a trail with him to look at a bird’s nest, and then attacked her.
Prosecutors said Edwards denied sexually assaulting her, but said that when he saw her injuries, he knew he was going to get into trouble, and knew he "had to get rid of her so she couldn't tell anyone." He told officers that he grabbed and dragged her further into the wooded area so people would not hear her, documents said.
Prosecutors said the boy also admitted grabbing the girl’s throat and squeezing until she passed out, recalling that she was kicking and gasping for air as he squeezed her throat. When she stopped struggling, he left.
Officers said the girl was found lying on her right side, with dried blood on her face and mouth and was obviously cold and shivering.
The girl had difficulty speaking and indicated it was her throat area that hurt, police said. She also said she had pain in her arms, face, head and stomach, and there was swelling on both sides of her neck.
When asked if she knew who did this to her, she nodded yes and gave the officers the boy’s first name, according to authorities.
The girl underwent surgery to repair damage to her throat and is recovering. A child assault specialist doctor also examined her and found clear signs of sexual assault, the prosecutor’s office said.
Desiree Jiles, who said she is Edwards’ best friend, came to court as he entered pleas of not guilty. She had mixed feelings about the charges.
“It’s hard to believe that, like, he did that," Jiles said after court. “I’m trying to imagine that my best friend would do that, but it’s hard.”
Asked if she thought he was guilty, Jiles answered, “I mean, like, there’s evidence. Like, I know he did, but it’s hard to believe that he did.”
Jiles’ mother, Amanda Coleman, also said she found the accusations hard to understand.
“He doesn't seem like one of those kids that would do that," said Coleman. “He just seemed like an average, normal teenager.”