The family of the 5-year-old disabled girl allegedly victimized at a Twin Falls apartment complex is preparing to move this week to a new residence.
“I have to get out of here. I don’t feel safe living here anymore,” the girl’s mother told Slate magazine in a story published online Sunday.
Slate reporter Michelle Goldberg spent five days in Twin Falls and exchanged emails with the mother she called “Lori” — not her real name. Goldberg said Lori agreed to meet with her several times but each time either canceled or temporarily stopped responded to messages. In a text message, she told Goldberg she suffers from serious physical and psychological difficulties, including autoimmune hepatitis and debilitating anxiety.
The interview marked Lori’s second public comments in the last month. Conservative website World Net Daily reported that it spoke with her for a July 11 article, in that case calling her “Laney Shelly,” also not her real name.
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Efforts by the Idaho Statesman to reach a family member of the girl have not been successful.
Throughout June, rumors of the incident early that month grew into a tale of Syrian refugees raping the 5-year-old at knifepoint, then sharing video of the attack with a parent, who then celebrated with the boys. Few details of what actually happened have been available because the juvenile court records are sealed. Prosecutors and police say a sexual assault did occur, but many of the rumored details — the knife, that it reached the level of rape, sharing the video, even the defendants’ ethnicities — were wrong.
For the Slate article, Goldberg also spoke to prominent local refugees, critics of America’s refugee settlement program, a woman identified in other media as “Grandma Jo” who was the first to find the children right after the incident, and Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs.
Lori told Goldberg she is a stay-at-home mom who also cares for a son with autism.
Goldberg said Lori’s Facebook feed since June 2, the day of the alleged attack, has been full of stories from conservative websites about Muslim violence. “In the USA you have to follow our laws and obviously him raping my daughter in their country is OK,” she said in a text to Goldberg.
Three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14, were detained. The youngest boy is from Iraq, while the older two, brothers, are from Eritrea, an African nation. They were previously described as being from Sudan; their family passed through Sudanese refugee camps, Goldberg reported.
The youngest boy is alleged to have touched the girl. The older boys are accused of using a cellphone to record a video of the incident, which took place in a laundry room at the Fawnbrook apartments.
The families of the boys have been given eviction notices; the Iraqi family was still living at the complex when Goldberg went there.
Lori told Goldberg that after she discovered what had happened and the police were called, the boy who recorded the video handed over his phone to her fiance, who watched the recording. According to Lori, he said it showed oral sex and their daughter being urinated on.
Loebs, the Twin Falls prosecutor, told the Statesman Monday that legal restrictions prevent him from discussing the case in detail, including whether the fiance’s description of the video was correct. But Loebs said the man only saw a small portion of the video, and that instead Loebs only described its full contents during a briefing with both the fiance and the mother.
He repeated assertions that right-wing groups across the country have used the case as an excuse to criticize refugees and refugee resettlement programs.