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Why Would Five Teens Gang-Rape a Friend? Check Facebook

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Jessica likewise boasted about drug use but conveyed an ambivalence that went beyond Erica and Patricia's braggadocio. She vacillated between a vulnerable teenager —"All I need is someone who really cares... hearing tears come from my mammas eyes" — to a street-hardened youth. "Life is like a strip club," she wrote when she was 15, adopting a Young Jeezy song. "Throw a lil money, then ya finally get love."

Loneliness often crept into her posts. "I aint gon' lie," she once confided on Facebook. "I need a bestfriend, a lot of people outchea aint trustworthy though. I mean i love maryjane but she dont help me with my problems. She helps me hide from 'em."


"Beat that ho!" the drunk blond girls chanted when the camera phone flickered to life. "Beat that ho! Beat that ho!" On a sodden November day in 2012, the girls crowded around a roadside mud pile, pushing and shoving. They were drunk and bent over in stitches.

"Beat her! Beat that ho, Trisha!" someone shouted on the Facebook video. Patricia Montes, 14 and in black spandex, grappled awkwardly with 15-year-old Erica Avery, tripping her to the ground. The camera jostled as it zoomed in closer to the melee. But what first appeared to be play devolved into something darker. Patricia grabbed a fistful of mud and tried to shove it into Erica's face.

"Get it in your mouth!" Patricia yelled.

"I don't wanna eat dirt!" Erica shrieked. "I don't wanna eat dirt!"

A forest-green truck roared into the frame. It was Patricia's five-foot-five dad, Ray Montes. The girls told him they were just playing. "You don't fucking play like that!" the graying 46-year-old boomed at Patricia. "Don't tell me, 'It's good.' You're my fucking daughter, all right? Look at you — you're fucking filthy! Get your ass home, now!" He gunned the engine, and the truck screeched away. On Facebook, the girls couldn't get enough of the video, which spawned 80 comments and was named, "Drunk Ass Hoess Lmaoo."

The similarities among the children's digital personalities — the deification of violence and drugs and the diminution of women — reflect broader themes in teenage social media. Here, girls are referred to as "bitches," "hoes," and "sluttabugs." Boys of all ethnicities call each other "nigga." Teens tell friends they "totally fucks with" them to express affection. Photo galleries are dominated by the shirtless selfie, which often includes baggies of weed, small piles of cash, blunts, the middle finger, cleavage, and six-packs.

Erica Avery's mother, caught for a moment on the telephone, claims her child's online personality doesn't accurately portray her real one. She says Erica was the product of an archetypal nuclear family. "My daughter is not a gangster," says Avery, a handsome woman with long puffy hair. "She comes from a stable household. There were never problems." Erica's 22-year-old sister agreed with a quick comment before hanging up: "We grew up in a normal house with loving parents."

But such proclamations obfuscate a history that's substantially more complicated. Erica's father, Eric Avery, has an arrest record that reaches back to 1994, when he pleaded no contest to four felonies of using a counterfeit credit card. Adjudication was withheld, and he got two years of probation. Over the next decade and a half, he stayed out of trouble, but his proclivity for petty crime emerged once more when Erica was in her early teens.

A towering figure of 225 pounds, he let his hair grow as long as his daughter's. He loved his two daughters — a tattoo of "Erica" in Chinese characters inks his left forearm — but he could scarcely provide for them.

In 2010, after he says he separated from his wife, the Riverside Mobile Home Park in Fort Lauderdale moved to evict him (the case was eventually dismissed). Over the following few months, according to police and court records, Avery piled up a slew of arrests that netted him 12 felony convictions and at least one year in prison.

In April, he walked into a Pompano Beach Publix, pushed $83.60 worth of groceries into plastic bags, and waltzed out without paying. He shattered the back window of a 2006 Chevy Van and lifted out construction tools, a digital camera, and a Garmin GPS unit. He lifted a black-and-white duffel bag out of a darkened house in Pompano Beach. "I had to do what I could," he told police. "We're about to be evicted."

Avery was booted from another place in 2012, and his legal and financial problems ravaged his daughter, who dropped out of high school. In the summer of 2013, she began dating a new boy and spent most days at his house. His brother, Christian Gonzalez, hung out too. As did Patricia.

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Terrence McCoy