Virgil Apodaca, Sr.
Virgil Apodaca, Jr.
Sexual assault charges have been dismissed against two of four members of the Virgil Apodaca family of North Platte, after the two men waited for months in jail, held on $1 million bonds.
Five men were charged in the alleged rapes in May of three North Platte women, ages 16-18.
Anthony and Jeromy Apodaca were initially charged with aiding and abetting the alleged rapes, which are thought to have occurred at two parties. Their father and brother, Virgil Sr. and Virgil Jr., Apodaca were suspected of the rapes.
At a preliminary hearing in Lincoln Court Thursday, defense attorneys successfully argued there is no hard physical evidence to connect Anthony and Jeromy to the alleged crimes.
Anthony was released from jail late Thursday. His brother Jeromy remains in jail, charged with procuring for a minor and violating probation.
The three women, all in their late teens, told police that they were drugged and raped, some repeatedly, at both parties on May 12 -- one at 1303 East Sixth and another party later at 420 West F.
Based on their statements and medical examinations, the prime suspect, Virgil Apodaca, Sr., 44, was arrested May 17, charged with first-degree sexual assault.
Within weeks, three sons -- Virgil Jr., Jeromy and Anthony -- were also arrested. Each of the sons were charged with aiding and abetting first-degree sexual assault, with each count carrying a maximum of 50 years imprisonment.
Based on the severity of the charges and their criminal histories, each of the bonds for the four men were set at $1 million.
Then, the defendants and prosecutors waited for DNA tests to be confirmed. When the lab results finally came back in early November, another man, Anthony Nunnenkamp, was charged for one of the alleged rapes, and preliminary court hearings were finally set.
All along, the suspects maintained their innocence.
In court, North Platte Police Investigator Roger Freeze recounted his investigation and the women’s statements. Questioned by County Attorney Rebecca Harling, Freeze was on the stand for nearly two hours, often referring to a hefty stack of notes as he answered questions.
Freeze testified that DNA samples from the women and defendants were sent to the State Patrol Crime Lab. He said the results indicated sexual intercourse between at least one of the women and one of the Apodacas – Virgil, Jr. – but he said more precise testing is required to be sure the DNA makeup is properly differentiated between father and sons.
Freeze said the alleged victims told him that they had some liquor, but not enough to pass out. They all said they were in and out of consciousness at the parties, and were badly hung over for days afterwards.
One of the women told Freeze she recalled awakening at one time in a bedroom at the party on E. Sixth to find Virgil Jr. on top of her.
She also said she remembered Anthony in the room, and later she identified both Anthony and Virgil, Jr. to police from a photo lineup, Freeze said.
Freeze testified that the woman also showed him bruises on her knees and left thigh and she said that there was a sore spot on her head. She said she felt ill from the after effects of the drug for two days.
Another of the women told Freeze that she was handed a red-colored drink that resembled Kool Aid at the party on E. Sixth. And, Freeze said she had bruises on her arms, neck and chest.
The third woman also told Freeze that she was given a red-colored drink at the parties. She said some Hispanic men told her she couldn’t go through a bedroom to use a bathroom at the first party, and they seeming guarding the door.
All of that indicated the women were assaulted, but on the other hand, one of the women told Freeze that later that night she drove Virgil Sr. and Virgil Jr. to Virgil Sr.’s house on F St. And, another alleged victim said she rode along. Driving would have been difficult if not not impossible if the woman was drugged.
At Virgil Sr.’s house, another party got underway. All three women said they received more red liquid there, and the assaults continued in the basement, according to the investigation.
But the victims did not place Anthony and Jeromy at the second party. Nor was DNA from either of them confirmed on sample swabs of the women.
In court, defense attorneys Stephen Potter and Patrick Heng said there is no physical evidence against their clients. And, they said the women’s memories of events are unreliable because even the women said they were drugged and semi-conscious.
Although the women’s statements seemed to indicate that Anthony and Jeromy were guarding the bedroom door where the alleged rapes occurred at the first party, Potter said even that couldn’t be proven.
“The victims only said there were some Hispanics blocking a door to the room,” Potter said.
On Friday, Anthony Nunnenkamp, 28, of North Platte, was in Lincoln County Court for a contested preliminary hearing on a charge of first-degree sexual assault.
Police Investigator Roger Freeze testified that Nunnenkamp was reported to be at a party at 1303 East 6th, allegedly raping one of the three teenage women.
Freeze said the woman, who is in her later teens, said Nunnenkamp also raped her later at Virgil Apodaca, Sr.’s house at 420 West F.
Freeze said that Nunnenkamp at first denied being at either one of the parties. But later he changed his story, saying he was at the party on Sixth but didn’t know anything about any assaults.
But then in a third interview, Nunnenkamp said he was at a second party on F St. But, he denied having sex with anyone.
Finally, after Nunnenkamp was confronted with evidence that his DNA was on one of the girl’s clothes and in her vagina, he admitted to having sex with the girl at the house on F Street. But, he said that sex was consensual
Freeze also testified that he had talked with a witness, Christopher Boe, who told him he saw a man he later learned was Nunnenkamp at that party.
Freeze said Virgil Apodaca Sr. admitted being at the first party on Sixth St. along with his sons and Nunnenkamp. The senior Apodaca also said his sons Anthony and Virgil Jr., plus Nunnenkamp, were in a bedroom with girls at that party.
Freeze said Virgil Sr. told him that Nunnenkamp later had consensual sex with one of the girls at Virgil’s house on F Street. Virgil said Nunnenkamp and the girl had sex there, then Nunnenkamp left the party., only to come back later and have sex again with the girl.
On the other hand, the victim told Freeze that she did not consent to sex with anyone that night.
Investigators also found evidence of drugs mixed with alcohol at the second party, Freeze said. Drinking cups were seized and tested, and showed traces of methyl alcohol and a drug called MDM, also called the Love Drug, the active ingredient in MDMA (Ecstasy).
The drug causes hallucinations, euphoria and ultimately unconsciousness. The after effects include loss of memory and sluggishness.
The credibility of the victim's statements were also questioned. Witnesses told police that two of the women brought drugs to the party -- one a bag of pot and one a bag of cocaine, Freeze testified.
The credibility of the statements of the witness, Boe, was also called into question. Bow is currently in jail, also charged with sexual assault.
Defense Attorney Ryan Wilcox of McCook asked the court to dismiss the charge. He said there is not enough evidence to bind the case against Nunnenkamp to district court.
“I admit my client hasn’t been completely honest,” Wilcox said of Nunnenkamp. “(But) he’s facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison because (there is) an habitual criminal charge hanging over him.”
Lincoln County Judge Michael Piccolo said he would consider the testimony and rule within 10 days if Nunnenkamp's case will be bound over to district court, where it would proceed toward trial.
Charges are still pending against both Virgil Apodaca, Jr. and Sr., both of whom were at the second party where drugs were found in drinking cups.
Piccolo is expected to rule on the merits of Virgil Jr.’s case within 10 days.
No date has been set yet for a preliminary hearing to consider the prosecution's evidence against Virgil, Sr., the prime suspect. Virgil Sr. has said he will also contest the charge.
Editor George Lauby contributed to this report.