Courts & Crime

Judge weighs compensation for 5-year-old rape victim

Few places in California are more remote than Doyle. It is a tiny town of 1,100 on a lunar high desert landscape in southeast Lassen County. There is a foreboding sense of loneliness.

Alone in that desolation was a 5-year-old girl, who in the middle months of 2003 was sexually attacked time and again by Marion Boyd "Hank" Coy, her 68-year-old foster father.

It was hard to believe for the people who lived in Doyle, a dot on the map halfway between Reno and Susanville along U.S. Highway 395. After all, his wife, Barbara J. Coy, then 64, had operated a child day care facility in their home for 15 years before they became foster parents. The couple of more than 40 years had raised their own two children there, had shared the outdoors with grandchildren and foster children.

Many days Hank Coy, a union carpenter with no criminal history, would load the victim of his sexual assaults and her 6-year-old sister into a little red wagon and pull them around the block.

The shock that swept through the community wasn't shared by the family next door.

In sworn deposition testimony for a civil lawsuit in Sacramento federal court, Ron Cuevas said that in 1996 his daughter, then 14, was home alone and just out of the shower, when, clad only in her underwear, she came face to face with Coy just inside the front door.

"He walked up to her … rubbed her shoulders and said, 'It's OK, you don't need to be scared,' " Cuevas said. "My daughter said she ran into her room yelling, 'You better get out of my house,' locked the door, and he left."

He said his daughter didn't tell him about the incident for three years.

He called the district attorney and was told to report it to the sheriff. He did so but was told it was too late.

Cuevas testified that he notified the district attorney that the Coys were foster parents.

Court documents reconstruct the events.

The victim who brought Coy down four years later was placed in his home along with her siblings in 2003 after her maternal grandfather found the three youngest alone in their Susanville home and reported that they had been left alone on other occasions. At the time, the children were 4, 6, 7 and 9 months.

On Sept. 28, 2003, the victim's maternal grandmother reported to Barbara Coy that the girl, who had turned 5 a month earlier, had said that Hank Coy had forced her to touch and kiss his "peepee."

Barbara Coy confronted her husband, and he admitted it. She notified a social worker at the foster care agency, who in turn notified the Sheriff's Department. Hank Coy was arrested later that day.

The day after his arrest Coy confessed to two Lassen County sheriff's officers that on a number of occasions during the preceding several weeks he had engaged in various sex acts with the little girl, including intercourse, oral copulation and masturbation. He insisted the child was the aggressor and had instigated the first sexual encounter.

"The little girl is streetwise," he told the officers. "I feel sorry, uh, she's a cute little gal. … Like I say, I didn't start it, but I should have put a stop to it. I don't know why I did it. … I lost it."

Redding clinical psychologist Kent Caruso found Coy was "an opportunistic molester" and would not recommend probation. Based in part on Caruso's findings and on Coy's labeling his victim "a streetwise aggressor as she pursued him sexually," the Lassen County probation officer who prepared the pre-sentencing report recommended prison time.

Coy pleaded guilty in Lassen Superior Court in August 2004 to lewd and lascivious acts with a child, and was sentenced that December to eight years in prison.

In May 2005, the victim, her mother and siblings sued Barbara Coy, the county and its board of supervisors, its Child Protective Services agency and three employees, the director of the state Department of Social Services, and Environmental Alternatives, a nonprofit corporation licensed by the state to contract with Lassen and other counties to provide foster care. Environmental Alternatives had certified the Coys as foster parents.

By the time a settlement was reached in the civil rights lawsuit, the county and CPS social worker Terry Chapman were the lone defendants, and U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. had honed the issues for trial to the mother's claims that the defendants had violated the plaintiffs' constitutional rights to family integrity and due process in seizing the children and continuing the separation.

The proposed settlement is pending before Damrell. While admitting no wrongdoing, Lassen County has agreed to pay $865,000, to be disbursed in specified amounts among the family and its attorneys. A hearing on the proposal is set for March 12.

The lawyers would get the biggest chunk – $337,000 for fees and costs.

Coy's victim, now 11, would get an immediate payment of $75,000 into a trust, to pay for counseling and living, educational and other expenses approved by the trustee, First Capital Surety & Trust Co. of Milwaukee. In addition, there would be an immediate purchase of an annuity in the amount of $170,000, which would accumulate interest until she is 18, at which time the entire amount in the annuity would be transferred into the trust. The primary purpose from then on would be to pay for education, including college, as approved by the trustee. Any money left on her 25th birthday would be paid to her in a lump sum.

Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.