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THE BOYS NEXT DOOR
Bernard Lefkowitz
June 23, 1997
From an early age the jocks of suburban Glen Ridge pushed the limits, and no one ever pushed back. Then one day these princes of the playing fields lured a retarded girl to a basement—and raped her
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June 23, 1997

The Boys Next Door

From an early age the jocks of suburban Glen Ridge pushed the limits, and no one ever pushed back. Then one day these princes of the playing fields lured a retarded girl to a basement—and raped her

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Many of his friends were asking the same question: Can we get Leslie to do it again? But it was mainly Kevin Scherzer who pushed the idea of staging a repeat performance. Charlie would say later, and capturing it on film. "Kevin...told me what happened, and he said they were going to do it again at his house." Kevin wanted Charlie to film the next basement performance; he was the student manager of the school's audiovisual room and could borrow a video camera. Charlie told Kevin he wouldn't do it.

All through the day Charlie couldn't decide whether Kevin's stories were true. But when he hooked up with jocks clustered in the smoking patio at the end of the school day, they were all waiting to go to the same two places—the Scherzer house and the adjoining Cartaret playground. One senior football player was providing a kind of shuttle service, according to Charlie, taking groups of jocks in his car to Lorraine Street and returning to school to ferry more of his buddies to the Scherzers' house.

In the park, as other jocks waited, Kevin and Kyle went to their house and returned a few minutes later with a bat and a broomstick, Charlie said. Then they passed the two objects around to the boys gathered in the park. They mentioned that the day before, they had put a plastic bag over the head of the bat. Then someone said—Charlie wasn't sure whether they were talking about what happened Wednesday or what might happen later that afternoon—"You don't have to be mean about it." The boy who said that ripped a splinter off the end of the bat, Charlie said.

Charlie's doubts dissolved. He no longer thought that Kevin had been boasting. What convinced him was the size of the bat. It wasn't a miniature bat, as some kids in school had said. "It was a full-size wooden bat," Charlie said. "It was, like...a regulation bat." Charlie decided that people wouldn't say they had put a bat that size into a girl if they hadn't.

Leslie came to Cartaret Park on Thursday afternoon to play basketball, as she had the day before. Later Leslie told law enforcement officials that she was approached by members of the jock group, as she had been on Wednesday. Leslie wasn't aware of any plans to videotape her, but she did know that she wasn't going to be tricked twice into going to the basement. Leslie said later that she was again told that "Paul [Archer] would be there, and he'd go out with you," but this time she said she couldn't accompany them to the house because she was waiting for a friend.

Many of these jocks who were staring at her in the park hadn't been in the basement the day before. Leslie remembered who had been there. She also remembered what the boys had told her: "We're not going to tell anybody. This is our little secret." Leslie had kept her end of the bargain; she had not told her parents about being assaulted, even though they had sensed something was wrong and had questioned her throughout the evening. But the presence of all these new faces in the park proved that the jocks hadn't kept their promise; what happened in the basement was no longer a secret; the jocks were telling all their friends.

By mid-March at least 40 people reportedly had heard that Leslie Faber had been at a party with neighborhood boys where objects had been put into her body. The issue that would trouble educators, parents and students in Glen Ridge for years to come was this: Why would it take more than three weeks before any one of them reported Leslie's experience to the police?

One of Charlie's teachers, Ariel Riviera, overheard him talking to a friend about the "incident." When he asked what the boys were talking about, Charlie described all he had heard and seen, including the attempt to induce Leslie to repeat the experience on videotape. So Charlie became the only Glen Ridge student to tell a teacher what had happened—and could happen—to Leslie.

The Glen Ridge Child Study Team met on Wednesday, March 22—21 days after the incident in the basement and at least a week after Charlie told Riviera. Those in attendance included a social worker, several special-education teachers, a guidance counselor, a school psychologist and a specialist on children with learning disabilities.

The discussion turned to drinking. Riviera interrupted: "Charlie Figueroa's telling me about this party. I don't know if it was a drinking party or what, but he's telling me about this outplacement girl. She's from West Orange."

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