13-year-old girl raped at Cemetery House in 2016
A Delaware law firm is asking for anyone with information about a sexual assault that occurred at a Laurel “haunted house” to come forward.
James Eugene Williams, of Laurel, was 20 years old on Oct. 14, 2016, when the incident occurred. He and a 13-year-old female victim were both volunteers at the Laurel “Cemetery House,” a Halloween attraction hosted by the International Order of Odd Fellows Charity Lodge No. 27 and the Odd Fellows Cemetery Co., both of which are registered nonprofits.
According to court documents, the victim had been permitted to participate in events at the Cemetery House after her mother was promised by David Brent Nichols, who could not be reached for comment and was presumably also volunteering, that he would supervise her and that she would never be alone.
It is unknown if Nichols and/or the Odd Fellows organization knew that Williams had been charged with offensive touching just a few months prior, in March 2016, but the victim was left alone with him at some point while the Cemetery House was in operation.
Williams asked her to help him find his mask, and when she did, he “pushed her against a wall in the front room of the house and raped her,” according to court documents. He then followed her into another room and raped her again. Both incidents occurred between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.
The victim and her family pressed charges. Williams was convicted of fourth-degree rape and second-degree unlawful sexual contact earlier this year and is currently serving a prison sentence at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna.
The victim’s mother has also filed a civil suit against Williams, Nichols, Odd Fellows Charity Lodge No. 27 and Odd Fellows Cemetery Co., accusing them of gross negligence, fraud and more and requesting compensatory and punitive damages. That suit was filed on July 7, 2017, but the defendants have yet to file a response.
The Odd Fellows did not immediately return phone calls. The Cemetery House is open again this year, but volunteers have been limited to persons 16 and up.
Raeann Warner, Esq., of the Jacobs and Crumplar law firm in Wilimington, has been retained by the victim’s family to represent them in the case. Warner is asking anyone with information about the incident or incidents of a similar nature at the Cemetery House to contact her.
“We’re just looking for more information at this time,” said Warner. “We’ve made no firm decision as to a next step.”
If the defendants – Williams, Nichols and the Odd Fellows – don’t respond to the lawsuit, Warner said her clients could opt to file a motion for a default judgment, in which case the court would decide whether or not to proceed with a trial.
If you have information you believe is relevant to this case, contact the offices of Jacobs and Crumplar at 302-656-5445.