Crime

Teen sentenced in sex assault on girl in Lakebay

18-year-old sentenced in connection to sexual assault of Lakebay girl

Defense attorney Kent Underwood speaks at the sentencing for 18-year-old Morgan James Cayo.
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Defense attorney Kent Underwood speaks at the sentencing for 18-year-old Morgan James Cayo.

A man who has been 18 for about a month was sentenced Friday for the sexual assault of a girl in a Lakebay shed earlier this year that was recorded on social media.

Pierce County prosecutors said Morgan James Cayo was one of several youth involved in the March 14 attack.

The group tied the then-15-year-old girl’s ankles with a hair straightener cord, dragged her around the shed behind her house and sexually assaulted her as she was unconscious

Someone sent video clips and photos of the attack to at least two people via Snapchat, an image-sharing application that deletes content after a few seconds, investigators said.

Superior Court Judge Edmund Murphy sentenced Cayo to a high-end sentence of two years, five months in prison, a recommendation agreed to by prosecutors and the defense.

Murphy also reminded Cayo he must register as a sex offender.

The teen pleaded guilty to third-degree rape and two counts of second-degree assault in September. As part of the negotiations with prosecutors his case was moved from juvenile to adult court.

According to charging papers:

When another teen at the home alerted the girl’s mother that something was going on in the shed, the woman found her daughter curled on the floor, partially nude, with blood on her and her sweatpants ripped off.

The girl told her mother that she and others had been drinking vodka, and that she’d passed out.

Prosecutors said the boys burned smiley faces into the girl’s skin during the assault. In his plea, Cayo wrote that he “recklessly inflicted substantial bodily harm by heating up a lighter, pressing it on (the girl), thereby causing a burn.”

But he maintained his innocence regarding the rape charge by entering an Alford plea, which is when someone does not admit guilt, but agrees that conviction would be likely.

“Mr. Cayo does not admit that he participated in those acts, but he does understand the risk of trial, which is why we have reached the resolution that we have,” defense attorney Kent Underwood told the judge at sentencing. “I would say that there were a lot of inconsistent statements, and that Mr. Cayo was also very sorry for what did happen to the victim.”

The victim and her family did not appear to be at the sentencing.

Cayo’s family said outside court Friday that his adolescence has not been easy, and that they worried about his safety in prison.

His mother died of a heart attack in May, and an uncle he was close with died in a car wreck the next month. The grandmother he lived with growing up died several years ago, after which he sometimes was homeless, they said.

His stepgrandmother, Pamela Cumbie, said after the sentencing: “He’s a kid. He may be 18, but he’s a kid.”

The charges, she said, were “not even close to who he is. Not even remotely.”

The other boys accused in connection to the assault are charged as juveniles.

A 13-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault last month, and is to be sentenced Nov. 21. A 15-year-old charged with second-degree rape and second-degree assault is set to go to trial next week, which also is the case for a 17-year-old accused of unlawful imprisonment.

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