An apartment management company continues to contest a judge’s ruling awarding damages to two women brutally raped by a man who entered their apartment through a window the complex had failed to properly repair.

Screen-Shot-2017-06-01-at-6.22.36-PM

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

EDITOR’S NOTE: WARNING. The following contains an account of a sexual assault. Those who might be disturbed by that description should skip the section under the header The attack.

When Tracy Childers and Mary Trout were raped in Childers’ apartment, they believed that the apartment complex management bore at least some of the blame, because the management had failed to properly repair a broken window latch in Childers’ apartment, even though she had asked them to fix it.

It was that broken latch, the women say, that gave their attacker, Jarad Alan Wade, a way into the apartment.

The two women have sued the complex and, in February, won a ruling that granted them actual and punitive damages. Now, however, the management at Stoneleigh Place Apartments is appealing that ruling, claiming — among other things — that they owe Trout nothing because she didn’t live at the apartment.

(While it’s Dallas Voice policy to protect the identity of rape victims by withholding their names, Childers and Trout asked that we use their names and their attorneys agreed. As far as they’re concerned, they did nothing wrong and have no reason to hide.)

The attack

In 2014, Childers lived at the Stoneleigh Place Apartments on Buckingham at Shiloh roads in Garland.

On June 21, she and Trout went to the Blue Moon women’s dance and then went to Childers’ apartment, where Trout had planned to spend the night. Soon after getting to the apartment, they said, they went to bed.

Then, Childers said, “I thought I heard a noise.”

Trout thought it was just one of the cats. But Childers turned on the light on her cell phone and with it discovered a muscular man with a white T-shirt tied around his face, holding a knife. Jarad Alan Wade had climbed in through a window she thought was locked.

Childers said she and Trout asked the man what he was doing in the apartment. They told him he needed to leave immediately. Instead, he started punching Childers in the face.

“Mary climbed over me to get between us,” Childers recalled. “He pummeled her in the face.”

Trout said Childers slipped in and out of consciousness. He had broken her nose and her eye socket, affecting the orbit of her eye and her vision. He chipped her teeth. Then, she said, “He asked where the toys [were].”

“He raped both of us with toys,” Childers said. “I was fighting. The more I fought, the more he hurt me.” She heard Trout whimper and “I knew he was hurting her.”

Wade told the women if they told anyone, he’d kill them. He picked up Trout’s license, tried to put it in his pocket, but missed and it fell on the floor.

At one point, Wade pushed Childers leg out of the way and, she said, she’s still having problems with her knee. She described having almost an out-of-body experience during the ordeal. At one point,

Childers said, she picked up the phone, but Wade grabbed it and threw it on the floor.

Finally it was over. The attack had lasted more than an hour.

“I guess he had enough and decided to go,” Trout said.
Wade left, going back out the same window he came in, and the women called 911.

The arrest and trial

Garland police already had Wade on their radar. He had committed similar offenses before raping Childers and Trout, and, police said, apparently had been watching the couple through their window — just as he had done in previous assaults. It was after the attack on Childers and Trout that police were able to arrest him, charging him with rape and on peeping tom charges.

The couple asked the detective investigating their case if he thought they had been the victims of a hate crime. Did he think Wade had attacked them because they were lesbian? The detective said that wasn’t likely because Wade hadn’t made any anti-gay remarks during the assault and, during questioning, he told police he had gay friends.

Wade claimed he broke into Childers’ apartment because he was hungry and was looking for food. But that excuse fell apart when it was pointed out that after he came in through the window, he walked past the kitchen to get to the bedroom.

Wade eventually took a plea deal, but Childers was allowed to give an impact statement. It was then that she found out that Wade had also attacked a woman in her 70s.

An attorney for the two women said Wade was sentenced to 50 years in state prison on three counts of aggravated sexual assault resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of burglary of a habitat, one count of burglary of a habitat with intent to commit sexual assault and one count of indecency with a child.

The lawsuit

Once the man who raped them was in prison, Childers and Trout turned their attention to the negligence they believe allowed the attack to happen, and they filed suit against the corporation that owns the apartment complex.

When Childers first moved into the apartment, she reported the broken window latch to the apartment manager. Maintenance worked on the window quickly, she said, but just installed thumbscrews. They didn’t actually repair the latch.

Although Childers moved within weeks of the attack, more than a year later, their attorney arranged to take pictures of the window. The window latch still hadn’t been properly repaired or replaced. And Childers realized something she hadn’t known at the time: the thumbscrews didn’t grip solid wood or metal. They merely poked through the frame and into the caulk holding the window in place, providing no security whatsoever.

During a pre-trial deposition, the attorneys for the corporation questioned Trout about her sexual orientation, asking if she were “confused.” They asked about her childhood, when she was abused and had lived in a group home, wanting to know if that experience had contributed to her being raped that night in Childers’ apartment.

Even though Childers and Trout were in Childers’ apartment with the doors and — they thought — the windows locked, the company’s attorney appeared to be trying to prove the women were asking to be raped and, maybe, that they deserved it because they were lesbians.

Childers had kept records of the repair requests, but work orders subpoenaed by her attorney were different than the ones she had. They had different signatures, and one included Childers’ new address, written in after the lawsuit had been filed.

The trial took place in February and took about a week. One maintenance worker at Stoneleigh Place testified he had told the manager the thumbscrews wouldn’t work.

Childers and Trout were awarded actual and punitive damages at trial. But the management company then filed a motion to have the judgment vacated, claiming — among other things — that they didn’t owe Trout anything because she didn’t live at the apartment.

The judge in the case has asked the women’s attorney for more case law to use in her opinion before the case was referred on appeal. According to the women’s attorney, that’s usually an indication the judge is going to write an opinion in their favor that she doesn’t want overturned.

So three months after their trial and three years after they were raped, Childers and Trout still have a pile of medical bills and Stoneleigh Place, which didn’t properly repair Childers’ window, is appealing.
Childers and Trout are doing better but are still dealing with that night.

“I don’t have the machete in the middle of my bed anymore,” Childers said. But on some nights, she added, she still imagines seeing Wade standing at the side of her bed. She said she wants people to know about the Texas Crime Victims Compensation Fund, which reimbursed her for clothes left with her rape kit and covered her orbital eye surgery.

Trout said she has nightmares and anxiety issues that made her miss work. She is currently unemployed.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 2, 2017.