As the convicted Big Red football rapists reel from the shock of the guilty verdict that was handed down at the weekend, residents of the small Ohio town are relieved that justice has finally been served for the heinous crime.
“I feel that there needed to be accountability, but I still don’t think that everyone who was implicit in the case has been brought to justice yet,” local resident Willa Wade, whose daughter is a senior at Steubenville High School, tells RadarOnline.com in an exclusive interview.
As we previously reported, Judge Thomas Lipps announced his decision in the no-jury case Sunday, finding both 17-year-old Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, 16, guilty in the case that has divided the close-knit football-crazed town and riveted the nation.
Tried as juveniles, Richmond and Mays now face being jailed until they turn 21, and Wade believes they deserve to lose their youth behind bars for what they did to the anonymous 16-year-old victim, who was allegedly extremely drunk and may have been drugged when she was raped while partying with the boys last August.
“As for as the sentence they received, it is fair, and I don’t think it was overly harsh,” Wade says. “I hope that people realize from this verdict that there are consequences for your actions and learn from that.
“From what everyone was saying, I thought it would be a lot worse,” Wade explains. “It would be a tragedy though if they had been sentenced to a lot more time. I hope and pray that they look back over this and become better people from it.
“I wish it had never happened. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last — but you wish people would learn from things like this. People need to teach their children what is right and what is wrong.”
On Monday, Ohio State Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed that a Grand Jury will be called April 15 as 16 other minors face possible charges stemming from the rape — a development that outraged residents are relieved to hear.
“Everyone knows that these two young men were not the only ones involved in the assault,” says Wade , who is a church minister in Steubenville, adding: “If some of those charges don’t involve the parents though, it’s a moot issue. If you raise children then you need to take responsibility for what they do.
“I think adults should have been named in the investigation – a lot of this is about the cover-up that occurred following the attack and not just the crime that was committed.”
As for the general atmosphere of the community that was previously known as the “City of Murals” but will now always be notorious for the infamous rape case, Wade says citizens aren’t scared of facing further scrutiny.
“You only need to be afraid if you are guilty. Most of the people think that they are above the law and that it won’t really happen,” she says. “We just hope things will get better – and not just back to normal, as normal obviously wasn’t good enough.
“I am praying for the young men and for the girl. I always tell victims that rape is not about what you look like or what you wear – it’s a senseless violent crime,” says the caring Christian, who describes life in Steubenville right now as “a time of healing.”