BENNINGTON – In a dramatic moment at the Bennington Upper Courthouse on Wednesday afternoon, an underage victim pointed directly at the seated defendant, identifying him as the man who climbed to his window early in the morning in August 2020 and l sexually assaulted while her family slept.
Denzel Lafayette, 23, of North Adams, Mass., is charged with sexually assaulting without the consent of a 15-year-old who just turned 15 after their Facebook friends relationship quickly turned sexual and came up with a secret plan to meet at 3 a.m. at her house. father’s Bennington home. Lafayette also faces two other counts – sexual exploitation of a child and use of a weapon in the commission of a crime. He was carrying a pistol when he allegedly climbed inside the teenager’s window. In total, Lafayette faces a maximum of 13 years behind bars if convicted on all three counts.
According to court documents, in the early hours of a hot August morning in 2020, after meeting the teenager on Facebook and becoming chat friends for several weeks – exchanging photos and talking on the Messenger app – Lafayette was reportedly dropped off near the caravan house where the teenager lived part-time with her father. On Messenger, Lafayette and the victim coordinated the eventual meeting to have sex, with Lafayette climbing out his bedroom window so as not to wake his father or grandmother.
A witness who lived next door said he woke up that night after going off-roading with friends. After his friends left, he noticed a black car driving back and forth on the quiet, dead-end road, and an individual got out of the car. He called the police, who found neither the vehicle nor the individual.
He later heard a noise and noticed the accused standing outside, and confronted him before alerting the police again. He and the accused exchanged words, then the accused left. The witness described the accused’s distinct clothing, which was later seen on a video sent by Lafayette to the victim, and was entered into evidence.
Bennington Police Detective Tony Silvestri detailed his Facebook social media investigation which corroborated the victim’s statements, linking recently deleted posts to the accused showing the conversations which turned sexual shortly after they began .
The victim’s mother also testified, telling the court that the teenager was not allowed to use social media but found a way to access Facebook through her grandmother’s tablet and her son’s web browser. telephone. Once alerted to what had happened, the mother confronted the accused via Facebook’s Facetime app. She testified that Lafayette admitted what happened, knew her age, and apologized several times before ending the conversation. Shortly after, the family went to Bennington Police Station to report the crime.
The most dramatic testimony came from the victim herself, who detailed how the online relationship started as an innocent conversation and ended with Lafayette climbing out her window to have sex, handing her his gun as he he was going up to his room. In often excruciating detail, she described the sexual assault in a barely audible voice, testifying that at some point after having sex, she and Lafayette heard voices and saw a flashlight shining on in his bedroom window. Lafayette began to “freak out” and asked her to hide in her closet.
When she returned, she told Lafayette that he had to leave and that she would yell if he didn’t. He climbed out the window, leaving visible footprints outside.
Lafayette forgot a black bandana he was wearing in the victim’s room, so the victim sent him a picture of the bandana afterwards. Lafayette would have told him to keep it. This photo was also entered into evidence, along with a series of Facebook chats that were reached through a little-known law enforcement portal that Facebook had set up for law enforcement to capture social media content in. felony case, even if deleted.
The trial resumes Thursday morning with the testimony of the victim, followed by cross-examination by the defense and the start of the defense argument. The jury trial is expected to last two days.