Rape victim, 83, remains hospitalized; Suspect arrested

An 83-year-old Marrero grandmother remains hospitalized after she was raped by a burglar she stumbled upon at her home Sunday afternoon, according to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives have booked Kenneth Adams, 51, with aggravated burglary, aggravated rape, simple battery, resisting a police officer, battery of a police officer and several other charges after police say he raped the elderly woman shortly before 5 p.m. on Sunday. Adams was captured walking near the victim’s home on Avenue L shortly after she reported the attack to police, said Col. John Fortunato, a sheriff’s spokesman. The suspect was located with several pieces of women’s jewelry and a crack pipe in his possession, he said.

Fortunato said that the victim picked Adams out of a photographic lineup, and Adams admitted to burglarizing her home. However, he denied the rape. Adams’ last known address is in the same block as the reported rape.

Because the woman is an alleged victim of sexual assault her name is not being released, and neither are the names of her family members.

Fortunato noted that Adams has an extensive prior criminal history, including arrests for narcotics possession and theft, and he was wanted for simple robbery at the time the rape was reported.

The victim’s son said that his mother left her home Sunday to fill up her car at a nearby gas station on Barataria Boulevard. When she came home, she went to her kitchen. Adams, who apparently broke a rear window to get into the home, came out of a nearby bedroom and grabbed her from behind, according to her son. He forced her into a bedroom where he ripped her clothes off and began sexually assaulting her, the son said.

Fortunato said that during the assault, the victim told the suspect that the police were on their way, and he became alarmed and fled. He was captured after a brief chase and scuffle with officers, he said.

The victim is still being treated for injuries she sustained in the attack, including a cut hand and black eye, her son said. However, he said his mother appears to be recovering somewhat from the attack.

“She was handling it pretty well,” the man said, after returning from the hospital to visit his mother.

The victim’s son said his family is shocked and dismayed by the attack, which came in the home their mother has lived in for roughly five decades. He said his mother lives with a grandson, but that grandson was out of town hunting. He thinks Adams must have watched his mother leave the home and thought it was safe to break in. When she returned, he attacked her, the son said.

The incident shocked many of the woman’s neighbors, some of whom knew a disturbance happened Sunday night because of the patrol vehicles that flooded the area, but didn’t know the exact details. They said the neighborhood is typically quiet and safe, although its proximity to Fourth Street can lead to increased vehicle and foot traffic.

Cristy Justice said it’s a pretty good neighborhood, although there have been rough patches in recent years. Justice lives with her husband and two adult sons, and she said she can’t believe something like this could happen in her neighborhood. She plans to make sure all her doors are locked, but said she feels fairly secure.

“Obviously that makes me scared … (But) we’re not 84 years old,” said Justice, noting that a few months ago she called police because of a strange, intoxicated man prowling around her carport. “I don’t know if there is really anything that we can do.”

Angelina Barrois was disturbed when she got the news of the incident Monday morning. Barrois said she has two young children and is often approached by strange men while walking in the neighborhood even if her children are around. Fourth Street is known to have periodic prostitution issues, and Barrois said that can spill over into her neighborhood. She said the target of the attack combined with the time it happened are frightening.

“It happened during the daytime so it’s like, ‘Is it safe to come outside during the daytime?’” Barrois said. “That scares me.”

The victim’s son said that neighborhood, and the West Bank as a whole, have undergone some troubling changes since Hurricane Katrina. He noted that he and his siblings have tried to convince their mother to consider moving, but she’s been adamant about remaining in her home. The victim is fairly independent, although she uses a cane to get around. Her son said he and his siblings are now debating whether one of them needs to move in with her or take some other measure to keep her safe.

“She’s been in this home 50 years. Short of her dying, it’s going to be next to impossible to get her out of it,” he said. “Never before have we had any problems. … It’s an awakening.”

Daniel McBride called the incident a very rude awakening for a neighborhood that has always felt safe. He’s lived on Avenue L most of his life, and he’s never known any problems with burglaries or any other types of crime.

“That’s the first time we ever had anything like that,” McBride said, sitting a few doors down from where the rape occurred. “I’m shocked, really shocked.”

This is the second home invasion involving an elderly victim on the West Bank in the past two weeks. On Dec. 28, a 78-year-old woman in Lafitte awoke from a nap to find two burglars in her home shortly before 1 p.m. In that incident, the Sheriff’s Office reports that a man sprayed pepper spray into the woman’s face before stealing medication and other small items. No serious injuries were report in that incident, and police were investigating a possible suspect.

Elderly residents are often seen as “easy marks” because of physical and mental frailty, said Hugh Eley, the assistant secretary of the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals, which investigates reports of elder abuse. Typically, elderly residents are victimized by people they know. In the Lafitte pepper-spraying case, police were investigating a former boyfriend of the victim’s granddaughter who often spent time in the victim’s house. Eley said that when it comes to violent crimes by strangers, the elderly should adopt the same safety precautions as any one else.

“For something like this is not that much different from how anybody protects themselves,” said Eley, touting situational awareness and caution in interacting with strangers. “It’s sad to say, but none of us can be too careful these days.”