Sky Farm victim tells story of rape, horror

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2001

[04/11/01] COLUMBUS While they were locked in a closet hearing blows from a baseball bat inflicted on a man who was to show them a house he had for sale, Lorie Stevens and her children prayed they’d be left alone.

Instead, Stevens, now 37, was removed from the cramped utility room and forced to have sex with two men before they left the house with her ATM card and cash access code.

Stevens recounted events of the July 1999 day in Vicksburg to jurors here on the second day of the trial of Romika Perkins, 24, who faces two life sentences if convicted on all charges. Many wept.

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Also charged is Derrick Warren, 18, whose trial is to be May 21 in Greenwood. Circuit Judge Frank Vollor, presiding here, granted separate trials to Perkins and Warren and changes of venue.

Police who arrested the two the next day were expected to testify Wednesday.

Stevens, who now lives in Virginia and has chosen not to remain anonymous as state law allows for sexual assault victims, was the first witness.

She told how she and her four children went to 2090 Sky Farm Ave. on July 18, 1999, to view a house that Vicksburg businessman Glenn Triplett had for sale.

She said they arrived at the vacant two-story house around 3 on the Sunday afternoon and soon realized they weren’t alone.

“We had seen another car there when we pulled up and assumed it was Mr. Triplett, but then as we were walking towards the house two men wearing masks came out,” Stevens said.

She said one man, who the prosecution claims is Perkins, was much taller than the other. The taller one, she said, had a gun and the shorter of the two had a baseball bat.

“They made us all lie down in the driveway and I told them that we were meeting someone to look at the house,” Stevens said.

About that time a car started heading down the driveway and the men forced her family into the house, she said.

“They put us all in a utility closet and shut the door,” she said.

Triplett, who testified after Stevens, said when he arrived he sensed something was wrong.

“I saw the two cars there but I didn’t see anyone around and I thought that was weird,” he said.

Triplett said as he approached the back door of the home, a tall man holding a pistol came out and forced him inside.

“When I got in the house they told me to get on my knees and when I did one of them took my wallet and then the one with the bat starting beating me with it,” Triplett said.

Triplett, who had five broken ribs and spent five days in a hospital, said he remembered being kicked in the head, but then became unconscious.

Joseph Stevens, who was 14 at the time, also testified Tuesday that he and his mother and three younger brothers, who were still locked in the utility closet, could hear Triplett being assaulted.

“We could hear the smacks and then I could hear him groaning,” Joseph Stevens said.

He said, locked in the stifling cramped spaced with his family, they began to pray, “We just started praying because we knew we were next.”

None of the three could positively identify Perkins as their assailant.

Joseph Stevens said while Triplett’s beating was taking place, he told his mother to take off her jewelry and set it by the door in hopes the men would take it and leave.

Now 16, Joseph said that when the taller of the two men returned, he took his mother away.

“My brothers started crying and asking what he was doing with mom,” he said.

Lorie Stevens said she was taken into another room where the man believed to be Perkins showed her the bloodied and motionless Triplett, appearing to be dead.

“He said if I didn’t cooperate that is what would happen to me,” she testified.

She said the taller man told her to come upstairs because he wanted to show her something else.

“When we reached the top of the stairs he took me into a room and told me to take my clothes off, except for my shirt, which he told me to pull over my head, and then he told me to lay on the floor,” Lorie Stevens said.

Perkins, she said, then raped her, “I was terrified to fight because he had my babies downstairs and he had a gun.”

Jackson attorney Chris Klotz, who is representing Perkins, said during his opening statement Tuesday that tests showed no signs of rape. Stevens testified she was forced to clean up.

After being taken downstairs, Lorie Stevens said, the man who had just raped her demanded the code for her bank card. He then left her in a room with the other man to go verify the access number with Joseph.

“Then the other man told me to perform oral sex on him,” she said.

It was while she was being forced to do so that the first assailant brought her son in the room, “I saw my mom and she saw me and she looked so ashamed,” Joseph said in his testimony.

The mother and son testified that the two men then bound them together by their necks and torsos and then threw a sheet over them.

“They had told us they were leaving to use the ATM card but we sat there not knowing if one of them had stayed or not,” Joseph said.

He said their hour-long ordeal came to an end when he and his mother began to yell for help. Hearing them, Triplett came into the room.

Klotz also said during his opening statement that Vicksburg Police coerced his client into confessing to the crime because of pressure to make an arrest.

“This was a horrific crime, and they needed someone to blame for it,” Klotz said.

During cross examination of Lorie Stevens, Klotz indicated a civil suit filed by Stevens and her family could be playing a part in her testimony.

Stevens filed the suit in Warren County Circuit Court on the basis that Triplett should have secured the premises before her family arrived.

In her responses, Stevens denied the civil suit had any bearing on her testimony.

A second civil suit stemming from the case was settled in February when the City of Vicksburg did not admit liability, but paid Stevens $10,000 based on disparaging comments alleged to have been made by a former Vicksburg police officer.