LOWER TOWNSHIP — A North Cape May woman arrested in connection with an alleged sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl said she tried to help and is being wrongly accused.
Brittany Hearon, 18, of Willow Drive, is the only adult charged in a case that also resulted in the arrest of seven juveniles following an alcohol-laden party the night of March 14 in the woods behind a residential neighborhood.
Only one juvenile is charged with aggravated sexual assault, a 16-year-old male. Hearon, who had a brief court appearance Thursday, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child and conspiracy to commit endangering an injured victim. The other juveniles face a variety of charges.
Hearon, speaking in her living room on Thursday, said shortly after arriving at the party with her 16-year-old sister, Hannah Hearon, who was charged with aggravated assault for allegedly punching the victim, she noticed the girl passed out on the ground. She said a group of six or seven younger juveniles at the party were all drunk on 151-proof Bacardi rum.
“A naked girl was lying on the ground. She was basically trying to sleep on the ground. Me and my younger sister helped her get dressed,” Hearon said.
The two girls said they had been using their cell phones as flashlights and the batteries were dead so they tried to get the alleged victim out of the woods but found she was too heavy.
“We couldn’t get her all the way out of the woods. I left her with four others, two boys and two girls, and came home to get help. My aunt called the girl’s mother,” Hearon said.
Charles Hearon, the girls’ father, said he has a cell phone record showing they called the victim’s mother at 10:27 p.m.
The girl was eventually taken to Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House where she was treated for alcohol poisoning. Authorities later said she had been “sexually assaulted and physically abused” in the woods.
The Hearons’ story cannot be corroborated or refuted by authorities because they are not discussing details of the case.
“I won’t answer any questions having to do with facts surrounding a sexual assault, even if it was an adult,” said Cape May County Prosecutor Robert Taylor.
Lower Township Police Chief Brian Marker is referring all calls to the Prosecutor’s Office.
While little is being disclosed, the social media network is alive with the case and is being monitored by authorities. Chief of County Detectives Kenneth Super said social media may help authorities make their case. Taylor said the investigation is ongoing.
“We’re looking at certain items that were seized and doing a forensic analysis of cell phones and an iPod. We’re also looking at Facebook and other social media,” Taylor said.
Nichole Hamilton, the mother of the boy accused of aggravated sexual assault, said her son has deleted his Facebook and Twitter accounts.
“He’s lost a lot of friends over this. They won’t even let the kids back in school,” Hamilton said.
The alleged victim herself has tried to explain the night on social media. She responded to the boy who reportedly brought the alcohol to the party, a get-together of 11 neighborhood teenagers, six males and five females ages 13 to 18. He had expressed concern it was his fault.
“You didn’t force me,” she said on Facebook. “It was my fault. ... I will never do it again. It was so embarrassing and scary to wake up at the hospital with tubes on you all over. I’m in so much trouble too!”
The site of the party, a publicly owned forest called the Rutherford Tract off Glade Drive, was littered Thursday with beer cans, trash, and at least one condom wrapper. The trees were spray-painted with graffiti, including a swastika symbol and a racial epithet. There were charred remains of several fire pits.
“They go back there and party a lot,” said Brittany Hearon.
Charles Hearon said police went to the area on Wednesday and removed several forts and a couch the teenagers were using.
Hannah Hearon said she also tried to get the victim out of the woods, along with a second female who was highly intoxicated.
“I helped her out. I gave her my jacket,” said Hearon, a sophomore at Lower Cape May Regional High School.
At that point, she said the victim was only wearing a bra. Another underage girl at the party had no pants on and a cell phone picture taken of her led to one of the charges against a juvenile.
Brittany Hearon’s aunt, the mother of one of the juveniles charged, who did not want to disclose her name to protect the identity of her son, said she called the victim’s mother at 10:27 p.m. and got a return call at 10:53 p.m. She said the children told her to prepare the mother about the victim’s condition because they had dragged her through the woods and “dropped her” several times trying to get her out.
Brittany Hearon made an appearance in Lower Township Municipal Court Thursday morning where Municipal Court Judge Thomas Hillegass read the charges against her and advised her of her rights. Following Thursday’s initial appearance, the case will now be handled in Superior Court.
“I’ve never been in any kind of trouble before. It’s a little scary for me. It’s kind of embarrassing that my face and name is being blasted everywhere. I did my best to help her. I tried to carry her out of the woods and I got an adult,” she said.
Brittany Hearon recently moved here from Philadelphia and said she did not know the alleged victim. Hamilton, however, said most of the teenagers at the party live within blocks of each other and routinely “hang together.” She said social media is driving the case.
“These kids are all friends. It’s social media,’’ she said.
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