A man who has been arrested more than 30 times was charged Wednesday with the kidnapping and rape of a 12-year-old girl who was on her way to school.
The girl caught a CATS bus Wednesday morning near her home, then switched to another CATS bus at the main transit station uptown. Marcus Maurice Kennedy, 28, boarded her bus there and tried to talk to her but was rebuffed, police said.
About 8 a.m., the girl got off the bus on Dale crest Drive in northern Charlotte to catch a school bus to her middle school. Kennedy followed her, forced her into bushes and raped her, police said.
John Driggers, the maintenance supervisor at the nearby Tanglewood Apartments, heard a scream. He ran toward the bushes and saw a man attacking the girl, so he began yelling.
The attacker ran, and several neighbors and Tanglewood maintenance workers chased him. They caught him, they said, in a nearby yard and dragged him back to the scene, where police cuffed him.
At a news conference Wednesday, Police Chief Rodney Monroe praised the people who caught Kennedy but said someone with a criminal record like Kennedy's shouldn't be on the street.
“To continue to be in this community, having the opportunity to prey upon an innocent child, is disturbing,” Monroe said. “It gets no worse than what we're experiencing today.”
Kennedy has been arrested on charges that range from felony drug possession, to assault, to taking indecent liberties with a child. He was put on probation for the indecent liberties charge, state records show.
Kennedy has served numerous short stints in jail. He was sentenced to prison once, for at least one year and five months, for failing to register as a sex offender. He was released in February.
Since then, records show, he has been arrested seven times on drug charges and on charges including trespassing and simple assault. Three of those cases were dismissed, records show; three resulted in short jail stints; and one case is pending.
Mecklenburg District Attorney Peter Gilchrist did not return a call to his office late Wednesday.
“Why is the justice system allowing somebody like this to be on the street?” Driggers said. “This isn't something that's just going to end today for that little girl. This is something that's going to haunt her for the rest of her life.”
Patricia Easterling, who lives in Tanglewood, said she saw Kennedy in the neighborhood Monday. She was in the parking lot outside her building that morning when she saw a man wearing camouflage pants and a black top.
“He asked me: ‘Why do you always walk around looking so mean?' I said, ‘So I don't have to talk to anybody I don't want to,'” Easterling said.
“He said, ‘Well, what would you do if somebody started messing with you?' I told him I'd cut … him.” The man walked away.
On Wednesday, witnesses said Kennedy was wearing a camouflage sweat suit.
Driggers and another maintenance worker, Gerardo Campos, said Kennedy held a window squeegee against the girl's neck during the attack.
When Kennedy ran, Driggers called 911 while Campos and another maintenance worker chased Kennedy down Cedarhurst Drive, witnesses said. A resident on Cedarhurst, Hope Brown, had seen the attack from across the street. She and her brother got in her SUV and took off after Kennedy, stopping to pick up the maintenance workers, she said.
When they caught up, Kennedy cut into a row of houses and jumped at least one fence. Campos and Brown's brother caught up to him in someone's yard, trying to change from his camouflage pants into a pair of black sweat pants he carried in a bag, Campos said.
The men grabbed Kennedy by his armpits and dragged him back to the scene, said Campos, who said he smelled alcohol on Kennedy's breath. Police were arriving at the scene, he said.
“‘What'd I do, what'd I do?'” Brown recalls Kennedy saying.
“You know what the hell you did,” she told him.
Neighbors said the girl and her mother had lived in the neighborhood until recently, but they didn't know where the family had moved.
Police said she was riding the city bus to get to her old school bus stop.
Schools Superintendent Peter Gorman said the system didn't know the family had moved. Students who move and remain in the same school zone are typically assigned new bus stops closer to their new home.
It is not clear why the girl was taking a city bus to get to her old bus stop, officials said.