Neighbors say blight partially to blame for attack on East High student

By Nick Kenney - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) -   Two suspects accused of raping an East High School made their first court appearance Friday morning.

Thursday, police charged DeMarious Moore, 18, Brian Bland, 18, and Martavious Humphries, 16, with the rape, which happened in an empty house on Red Oaks Drive, near East High.
As Moore and Bland appeared in court Friday, neighbors of the house where the rape occurred had tough questions about what happened there.  But Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said blight is not the root of the problem.

"A boarded up house doesn't make you take advantage of a woman," he said.

Thursday, neighbors called the house at 278 Red Oak was a popular location, even though it's empty and boarded up.

"That's all it is - just a set up for crime.  A haven for crime," neighbor Helen Arnett said.

And neighbors like Arnett said the home's owner should take responsibility for his or her property.

"You need to take care of it, or the city needs to tear it down at your expense," she said.

According to tax records, the listed owner of 278 Red Oak is an investment firm in Washington State.  Neighbors on Red Oak the house has been boarded up for nearly two years.

Wharton says properties like this one are a priority.

"If I had my way, I would deal with it summarily with a thing called a 'bulldozer' and a wrecking crane. It would take about 15 minutes," Wharton said. "But then again, let's not. It all boils down to personal conduct. If we say that boarded up houses are causing crime, causing people to rob and rape, that's giving them a free pass."

MCS declined an interview about the alleged rape on the advice of legal counsel, but a district spokesperson said school officials have no legal recourse to keep a student on campus if he or she really wants to leave.

As a result of this case, Superintendent Kriner Cash will leave a ParentLink phone message this weekend, asking parents and guardians to speak with their children about the importance of making good decisions.

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