A furniture store donated a full-size bed today to the family of an 11-year-old girl who was raped in Kensington last week while walking to school. That way she can nestle up against her mom when darkness comes and brings with it nightmares of the unspeakable crime.
Later, her family staged a BBQ, attended by Mayor Nutter, scores of police, and up to 100 friends and relatives. Guests of honor were the two men who each received a $5,750 reward after they recognized the suspect in the attack from a police photograph and captured him.
The suspect, Jose Carrasquillo, 26, was severely beaten by an angry mob after the two men detained him on the street on Tuesday. Carrasquillo remained in custody yesterday but had not yet been charged with the rape, said a police spokeswoman. DNA test results are pending.
Try as they might to keep the mood festive today, her parents could not completely hide their sorrow and anger.
"To see her smile is all I can ask right now," said her father, as he hugged her and watched a stream of police officers and other well-wishers greet her.
The slight girl dressed in jean shorts and pink Princess t-shirt grinned shyly and then ran off with her three sisters and one brother. Someone offered her a ticket to an upcoming Beyonce' concert, her mother said, and later the girl was treated to a ride around the block in a Porsche.
The girl's name and parents' names are being withheld by The Inquirer to protect her privacy.
"She has cold sweats and runs into our room at night," said her father, a retired auto technician, as a tremor crept into his voice. "As soon as she closes her eyes, she relives it." He wants the family to move so that she can recover emotionally.
The incident occurred near Conwell Middle School, only a few blocks from their rowhouse. The girl had just dropped her 4-year-old sister off at a daycare and was heading to school that morning, alone, when Carrasquillo pounced, police said. He told her he had a gun and forced her to follow him six blocks to an alley, police said.
The attack was so brutal that the child had to be hospitalized and required surgery.
The girl's father said she told him later, "Daddy, people shouldn't be doing this to little kids." Though she previously wanted to be a doctor, she now wants to be a lawyer and later a judge so that she can make sure criminals stay off the street, he said.
Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey said earlier this week that his department would not pursue charges against those who beat Carrasquillo and held him for police. Video surveillance shows the suspect trying to flee, Ramsey said, and the crowd acted to prevent him from getting away.
"We have people who saw an individual who committed a very brutal crime, and they grabbed him and held him for the police," Ramsey said. "You have to think about the emotion involved in this."
Today, reward winner David Vargas, 18, found himself in a bear hug with the victim's father. "I feel great to be here, having him (the suspect) off the street."
He said that he and the others who beat the suspect at Front and Clearfield Streets, about six blocks away from the park, hadn't been patrolling the neighborhood looking for him, but knew eventually he would show up on the street.
"He had to come out from wherever he was hiding," said Vargas. Based on the police description and what was known in the neighborhood about the suspect, Vargas said he had no doubt that he and others had caught the right man. He said the group was intent on punishing him – but not killing him.
"He's a human being," Vargas said, "but he had to pay for what he did."
Fernando Genval, who also got a reward, did not want to comment.
Sitting on the stoop, the girl's mother said the child is slowly coming to terms with the horrors inflicted upon her. The child is "talking to us a little bit" about what happened, said the mother, whose hand was bandaged because she had punched a door in anger when she learned of the crime.
The child, an honors student who likes to read, posed for photographs with cadres of police who embraced her and said they were there to protect her and make her feel better. On her pink t-shirt she sported a button from a victim's support group that said: "A pearl is a beautiful thing produced by surviving injury." She also wore a gold pin that depicted a pair of handcuffs that she received from the police.
"We're so glad we can bring a little happiness to her life," said Sgt. Renee Butler, a 26th district patrol officer who treated the child like a celebrity and told her everyone was rooting for her.
Sgt. Lee Kenyatta, also came to pay his respects to the child and her parents. The girl's father said Kenyatta, a 25th district officer, had helped him over the rough spots and was active in the arrest.
Kenyatta said police were able to identify Carrasquillo as the suspect "through intelligence" and that once they released a photograph, people in the neighborhood captured him in "40 minutes max."
The girl's father said that the suspect was not treated inhumanely, in light of the cruel manner in which his daughter was attacked. "He got what he deserved."
"I'd love to see him get life with no possibility of parole."
As for the men who captured Carrasquillo, the father calls them "heroes" who cared enough about a little girl to take action.
"They're very special to me and my family. Without them it would be chaos and I'd still be out in the streets looking for him myself," the father said.
Mayor Nutter, who met privately with the child a few days ago, attended the afternoon BBQ because he promised the girl he would, said his spokesman, Doug Oliver.
"This was not a political event, not about vigilantism, or the capture, or the reward, just an opportunity for the mayor to interact with the young lady in a personal way," said Oliver. He said the mayor also brought her three books from the Bluford Series, young adult novels that focus on the lives of a group of high school students and their families.
The characters attend Bluford High, named after Guion "Guy" Bluford, Jr. America's first African-American astronaut and Philadelphia native. The girl mentioned to the mayor that she enjoyed those books while they spoke privately for about an hour in her home on Thursday.