b.m. called his pastor saturday night and told him
that he had done something bad, something he was ashamed about. he
needed to talk.
then the pastor saw news reports of the attack at a center city
library, in which an 8-year-old girl was beaten, sexually assaulted,
and left unconscious behind a toilet.
"my heart was just ripped out," said richard knox, who ministers
to the homeless with fellowship tabernacle community church in north
philadelphia. "i knew right off the bat it was him."
with knox by his side, b.m., 23, surrendered to
philadelphia police sunday and was charged with attempted rape and
attempted murder in the attack at the free library of philadelphia's
independence branch. yesterday, bail commissioner patrick stack set
b.m.'s bail at $1 million.
it was not the first time b.m. had appeared in court. in
june 2001, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor simple assault in a
similar case involving a 9-year-old girl.
and it was not the first time b.m. had caused trouble at a
city library. last year, he was banned from the library's central
branch. library director elliot shelkrot said b.m. was asked
to leave because he used the computers to look at pornography.
a library employee who asked that her name not be used for fear
of repercussions said b.m. was often disruptive in the
library, yelling and using foul language when librarians told him he
had used his 30-minute allotted time on the public computers. he
looked mostly at pornography, she said, and officials banned him
from the library only after he exposed himself to a 16-year-old
in the earlier assault, b.m. found his victim in the
women's bathroom of the venice island recreation center on cotton
street in manayunk on july 7, 2000.
"she went to the bathroom and he came in after that, pulled her
bathing suit down, and tried to choke her," said the victim's
mother, wendy riley of manayunk. "she screamed and he ran out."
b.m. was arrested almost immediately as he walked away on
green lane, riley said. he was charged with aggravated assault and
but because the victim could not positively identify b.m.
as her attacker, prosecutors cut a deal, allowing him to plead
guilty to lesser charges.
"we just didn't want to risk him just walking away from the
courtroom" with no supervision or conviction, said assistant
district attorney sybil murphy. "getting some supervision for this
guy was paramount to the mother, and paramount to me."
she added: "none of us were happy or even satisfied" with the
b.m., who had already served 11 1/2 months in jail and on
house arrest awaiting trial, was eventually released. he was ordered
to have no contact with his victim, who saw her attacker's face for
the first time in years on tv sunday night.
"i was shocked," the girl said yesterday.
the shock waves from saturday's assault reverberated from the
mayor's office to the streets of chinatown, where the victim lives.
mayor street ordered a security review of the library system,
spokeswoman barbara grant said.
"we're going to do everything reasonable, and some things that
are unreasonable, to make sure they're safe," grant said.
chinatown residents such as wiem liang, 40, were angry that the
defendant was in the library on saturday instead of in jail.
"if it were china - bang! we would kill him. then he wouldn't do
it again," liang said.
meanwhile, officials from other area facilities, including the
franklin institute and the philadelphia museum of art, said they
were confident that current security procedures provided a safe
environment for visitors.
vincent thompson, a spokesman for the philadelphia school
district, said officials were reminding employees to monitor
hallways, doorways, and children going to and from bathrooms.
the independence branch opened at 2 p.m. yesterday, two hours
later than usual, so shelkrot could talk to the staff. an extra
security guard was on duty, sitting near the double doors that led
to a small hallway and the bathrooms within. the key, normally kept
at the front desk, was in the guard's pocket; he unlocked the door
for patrons needing a restroom.
"people feel terrible, and everyone is wondering what could they
have done differently," shelkrot said.
on saturday afternoon, the 8-year-old victim, accompanied by her
grandmother and two other children, ages 3 and 4, visited the
independence branch, near seventh and market streets, police said.
sometime between 4:15 and 4:30 p.m., she went alone into the women's
there, police said, b.m. ripped off the child's clothing,
sexually assaulted and choked her, then jammed her body between the
toilet and the wall. another child found her a short time later.
library employees immediately called police.
the girl was in critical but stable condition last night at
children's hospital of philadelphia.
a few hours after the attack, knox said, b.m. called and
left a message. he called again a short time later. knox said he
answered, and b.m. told him he was in trouble.
"he said, 'i'm afraid to go into it, but it happened down at the
library, the city library,' " knox said.
the pastor met b.m. a few years ago though the church's
outreach program. b.m. came to philadelphia in 2000, wandering
east after spending time in texas and colorado, knox said.
"he's very easygoing, but he is prone to explode, which i've
never seen him do, but he often told me about it," knox said. "he
was mad that he was homeless and things like that."
knox told b.m. to meet him sunday at a mcdonald's in north
philadelphia. when knox learned of the attack on saturday, he called
the next day, knox met b.m.. the homeless man's clothing
was dirty and he "just looked down, really down." he carried a
duffel bag containing a blanket and told knox he had slept inside
knox said that he urged b.m. to turn himself in, and that
the homeless man said he would if knox stayed with him. "he said he
needed help," knox said. "he said he threw his life away."
once in custody, b.m. was treated gently by officers, knox
said, and "it was just very professional. they handled him with
while giving his statement, knox said, b.m. "broke down
crying. he was just devastated by what he did, but he knew he had to
pay the price. he wanted to apologize to everyone because he felt he
let the entire ministry down. i told him, 'just deal with it. we'll
"it made my job easier that he was remorseful. if he'd been
cold-blooded, it would have been a whole different story."
knox prayed with b.m. in his cell before leaving him
sunday. but knox also said he had problems sleeping because of fears
about his own daughters, ages 8 and 14.
"my heart is broken for the young lady. she will be scarred for
the rest of her life," knox said. "and he's a young man who threw
his life away. he's a perfect example of what a hopeless life can do
to a young man. where there is no light, there's