In December 1987, when she was 15, Leslie was harshly reminded of how different and separate she was from other teenagers. She had been attending a class for neurologically impaired students at Columbia High, but, socially, she wasn't fitting in with mainstream students. Her undisguised need to make friends, combined with her meager understanding of how to interact with other kids who were pursuing their newfound interest in sex, made her a natural target for sexual manipulation. In the view of one of her Columbia teachers, Leslie "didn't understand that her body was very private. If somebody she thought was a friend came up to her and touched her body, she thought it was a nice thing."
At the same time the Child Study Team at Glen Ridge High, where Leslie was formally registered, reevaluated her and reclassified her from "neurological impaired" to "educable mentally retarded." The officials at Columbia told the Fabers that Leslie would have to be transferred to an all-day self-contained class for retarded youngsters in West Orange High, where she would receive the supervision they felt she needed.
The school psychologist who evaluated Leslie observed that "there is an immature or childlike quality to her perception of social protocol. Although she has an interest in establishing social relations with others, she appears to lack the social skills to do so." The school officials told Ros and her husband, Charlie Faber*, something else: They said they were concerned "about Leslie's being raped."
So the Fabers placed Leslie at West Orange. Although the move saddened both them and her, it was clear that the program was more suited to her social skills and sheltered her from the uncaring acts of unkind high school kids.
But when school ended at 2:30 every day, there was nobody to shield her from the jocks of Glen Ridge. Their crude sexual taunts followed her from the playground to the town's tennis courts. She tried to ignore them, but how do you ignore a crowd of golden boys who keep urging you to take off your blouse, to provide them with oral sex, to stick objects into your body? Perhaps the most assertive was Chris Archer.
It was Chris who placed a series of late-night calls to Leslie, consisting of sexually charged invitations to meet him in out-of-the-way locations in the town. Charlie Faber listened in on one of these calls and said, "I find it very strange, Chris, that you call our house, that you ask to speak to Leslie, and you don't use your own name." Leslie would later tell another girl (in a tape-recorded conversation), "Chris Archer used to call me up and say he was jerking off on the phone."
"It's nothing—nothing much." Chris mumbled before hanging up. Charlie thought about telling Chris's parents, but he decided not to. Maybe it was enough that he had spoken to Chris in his sternest voice. Chris was old enough, Charlie thought, that he'd get the message.
But there was something the Fabers didn't know. They didn't know Chris's plans for Leslie. One of Chris's football teammates thought he caught a glimpse of the future when he drove around town with him. Chris would sing lines from Paul Revere, a popular song by the Beastie Boys, the hottest white rap-rock group in the country. Pounding on the dashboard, Chris would chant lyrics about being hunted by the sheriff. Why was the sheriff after him? Because he "did it" to the sheriff's daughter "with a Wiffleball bat."
"He'd sing it over and over again," Chris's teammate said. "He'd sing it and laugh—like it was the funniest thing."
Everywhere he went in school on Thursday, March 2, 1989, Charlie Figueroa, a member of the football team and one of three black students at Glen Ridge High, heard fragments of rumors about the Scherzers' basement the previous afternoon. The words blow job, baseball bat, broomstick and drumstick became a kind of mantra in these conversations. The words were always clustered around the same name: Leslie Faber.