Four charged in connection to Harriet Island assault

DeAndray Artez Easley

Vershone Jaquay Hodges

Devontre Jordan Vann

Assailants arrested after West St. Paul robbery

Four young men were charged in Ramsey County June 8 in connection with the rape and robbery of two young women in St. Paul. They were arrested after police responded to a report of an armed robbery in West St. Paul.

Choncey Milan Stewart, 16, Devontre Jordan Vann, 19 and Vershone Jaquay Hodges, 20, all from St. Paul, and DeAndray Artez Easley, 18 of Minneapolis, were charged in relation to a robbery and sexual assault that took place at Harriet Island on June 5 and 6.

Hodges, Vann, Easley and Stewart were all charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault, four counts of aggravated robbery in the first degree and two counts of kidnapping.

"Despite the victims complying with their orders and handing over their valuables, the perpetrators in this case forced the female victims into a car and repeatedly raped them," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi in a news release. "These allegations are brutally horrific and we will prosecute these defendants to the fullest extent of the law as we attempt to achieve justice for the victims, their families and our community."

Stewart's first court appearance was at the Ramsey County Juvenile Family Justice Center, but prosecutors will seek adult certification in order to try him as an adult.

Charges say

According to the Ramsey County criminal complaint, on June 5 around 11:15 p.m., a 17-year-old and her 15-year-old boyfriend went to Harriet Island to hang out with their friends, a 16-year-old boy and an 18-year-old woman.

After the group got out of their vehicle, the 17-year-old saw a group of four or five men coming toward them. The 16-year-old thought he knew the men so he and the other boy walked toward the group. The girls stayed behind at the car.

The 16-year-old briefly spoke with one of the men, who turned out to be Stewart, who the 16-year-old recognized from playing basketball and school. After a brief conversation, the two boys turned around to return to the girls.

The complaint states that as they were walking back, Stewart allegedly came up behind the boys and said, "You don't know who you are f------ talking to," and pulled out a small silver gun. The 16-year-old did not believe at first it was a real gun, but at some point, Stewart allegedly took bullets out of the gun to show them to the boys.

The four men allegedly made the victims go through their pockets, purses, wallets and the car looking for cash, cellphone and chargers. According to the complaint, Stewart allegedly forced the boys at gunpoint to strip down to their underwear and lay face down in the grass.

While lying facedown, one man put a gun in the 15-year-old's mouth, and when the other victim tried looking up he was kicked in the face.

Stewart allegedly then grabbed the 17-year-old girl by her hair, put the gun to her head and forced her into the back of the car. Vann and Easley allegedly joined Stewart in sexually assaulting her and the 18-year-old woman.

After the attack, Stewart and the others forced the four victims back into the car, threw the keys into the bushes and told them not to get out of the car for 20 minutes or they would shoot them.

The victims waited until 1:30 a.m., before getting out. They could not find their keys and didn't have phones to call for help. They eventually found someone on Harriet Island to help them.

Assailants caught

The four alleged assailants were arrested after West St. Paul police responded to a report of an armed robbery around 6:25 a.m. on June 6.

A male victim reported four young men robbed him at gunpoint at the corner of Livingston and Logan avenues. Stewart allegedly pulled a gun from his pocket and told the man to turn over everything he had.

According to the criminal complaint, within five minutes of the man coming home he called police and gave them a description of the men. The West St. Paul department notified St. Paul police they had three suspects in custody for an unrelated robbery who matched the description of those involved in the Harriet Island assault from earlier.

Stewart, Vann and Hodges were arrested at the West St. Paul robbery scene.

Easley fled the scene but was later arrested. The West St. Paul police shut down the 1200 block of Charlton Street to assist St. Paul police in the apprehension of Easley. This shutdown led to the lockdown of schools in the area.

Vann agreed to speak with a sergeant, and said he was at a video shoot by Harriet Island with Easley, who is a rapper. Vann said there were about 20 people there and he might know Stewart or Hodges if he saw their faces.

According to the complaint, Vann allegedly told police he did not remember talking to the two girls. When confronted about DNA evidence being used to determine if someone had sexual relations, Vann was once again asked if he wanted to talk about what happened with the two girls by the video shoot.

Vann said the 17-year-old wanted to perform oral sex on him.

Hodges told a sergeant he was with the three other men and they saw a group of two boys and two girls. He claimed he and Easley left because they knew the other two were going to do something. Stewart and Vann later caught up with Hodges and Easley, where they told them they robbed the group, Hodges alleged to police.

Easley told police he was at his girlfriend's house in Burnsville from 9 p.m., on June 5 to 8:30 a.m., June 6. He denied being at Harriet Island and said he didn't do anything before asking for an attorney.

The 17-year-old later picked Stewart, Hodges and Vann from photo arrays. The other three victims also identified Stewart as their alleged attacker.

--Hannah Burlingame 

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