Brenham’s Paradise Lost

A once-idylic town finds itself in the middle of a controversial rape case involving your four older boys and an eighth-grade girl, but the greatest crimes may have been abdication of responsibility by adults and a total absence of values in their teenagers.

THE RAPE CASE IN BRENHAM ATTRACTED NATIONAL attention for all the wrong reasons. It appeared to be a predictable melodrama, shocking and familiar at the same time. There was the setting of the sweetest town in Texas, the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. There were the high school villains masquerading as hometown heroes: three senior boys, including a star quarterback, Matt Kenjura, and a star baseball player, Matt McIntyre, all charged with aggravated sexual assault, a felony, for raping a thirteen-year-old girl at a graduation party last June. (A sixteen-year-old boy, who has not been charged, was also allegedly involved in the incident.) Finally, there was the victim, her identity protected according to tradition, who had been tragically taken advantage of and was now—also according to tradition—being run out of town for speaking out. “Anytime you have a gang rape, that’s of interest,” a tabloid TV producer who subscribed to this version of events told me.

It was not until a pivotal day last December that another, far more complicated version of the story began to emerge. The occasion was a hearing in the Washington County courthouse to dismiss charges against one of the boys, Bryce Pflughaupt, a pug-nosed, slick-haired kid who kibitzed confidently with his parents and his attorneys before court began. Nearby, under the soaring art deco ceiling, sat Matt Kenjura, a high school heartthrob out of central casting, his blond hair lank and his starched white shirt gleaming. Kenjura’s anxious parents were there too, along with those of Matt McIntyre, who grimly waited for the proceedings to begin. The first hint of a deviation from the script came when the victim, Sara Evans, dressed for a picnic in khakis and a sleeveless denim shirt, her hair in a jaunty ponytail, scooted out of the courtroom as the hearing began. (The names of the girl and her family have been changed.) As it turned out, that was a good thing: She exited just before Pflughaupt’s attorney Jim James launched an attack on her character that would have made TV movie producers tear up their contracts.

Adopting a thespian’s stance, James began reading from notes Sara Evans had written to her close friends. “I had another dream where I f—ed M and M and M.K. separately,” he read in a monotone that in no way diminished the impact of the notes, which referenced both Kenjura and McIntyre as well as his client. “I remember that I was at the country club with M.K. and he was a lifeguard and I had just got done swimming and went to take a shower and it wouldn’t turn on

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