WEST PALM BEACH — A 14-year-old boy confessed Tuesday that he was one of the masked attackers who terrorized a Dunbar Village woman and her son in their home, gang-raping the woman at gunpoint and assaulting the child.
Police said they hope to arrest nine more teenaged assailants who participated in the June 18 attack.
Avion Lawson, a seventh-grader at the Gold Coast alternative middle school, was charged Tuesday with armed sexual battery by multiple perpetrators, armed home invasion, aggravated battery and an additional sexual assault charge.
Investigators said they believe all involved in the attack are 14 to 18 years old.
Lawson was linked to the attack when his DNA was found in a condom at the victims' home, police said.
Tuesday evening, reporters converged at his family's home while Lawson's relatives sat on a porch facing a basketball court where they said Lawson liked to play.
They denied he could have done what police charged.
"If I ask him to buy some candy for me from the candy lady, he'd buy it," Lawson's 17-year-old cousin Niesha Allan said. "I'm gonna love him regardless."
Lawson was also charged with purse snatching and assault in January.
Lawson told investigators three days after the June 18 attack that he was at a friend's house the night of the rape. However, residents of the home did not confirm that story, according to police.
Confronted with the DNA evidence, as well as a partial palm print at the victims' home, he confessed, a police spokesman said.
Lawson was soft-spoken and cooperative but expressed no remorse, the spokesman said.
The attack began at 8:30 on a Monday evening when one assailant lured the woman from her home by telling her the tires on her car were flat. There, two more masked, armed attackers ambushed her, forcing her back inside.
During the next 20 minutes, seven more attackers followed the others into the apartment, where they raped the mother repeatedly, smashed a plate over the boy's head and poured household chemicals into his eyes, as well as other acts.
After the assailants fled, the victims walked a mile to Good Samaritan Medical Center, where staff members called police.
The details of the crime included acts that revolted veteran investigators.
The attackers did not seem to know the victims, who kept to themselves because the mother was worried that the neighborhood was unsafe for her son, police said.
The apparent randomness of the attack, the number of assailants and nature of the assault prompted investigators to work "day and night, every day," West Palm Beach Lt. Chuck Reed said.
"Old-fashioned police work" gave investigators Lawson's name and the names of several other teenagers, Reed said. One mother brought her son in without being asked by police.
Lawson's mother, who works at a hospital cafeteria, brought her son in at investigators' request. Lawson also lives sometimes with his grandmother, who fretted Tuesday that she would be thrown out of her Dunbar Village public housing apartment.
"He just stayed here to keep me company," she said.
His sister Shae Banks, 17, said he has two brothers and three sisters.
His 7-year-old sister wore a T-shirt that said "Brother For Sale." He had called her earlier Tuesday and said, "I love you," she said.
A friend of Lawson's who said his name was Gus said the seventh-grader also had called him earlier, but he did not divulge what they had discussed.
"We speak in silence," he said, and, pacing, took a cellphone call.
"I know, they had it on TV. Yeah, he called me. Leave me alone," he said, and hung up.