Three boys ages 8 and 9 are held in a detention center in the U.S. state of Georgia for kidnapping and raping an 11-year-old girl in the woods near a suburban apartment complex.
The alleged attack happened Thursday and the girl's mother reported it to authorities Sunday, Acworth police Capt. Wayne Dennard said.
"The victim said they were playing outdoors and the girl was forced into a wooded area where she was sexually assaulted, where one of the boys raped her," Dennard told The Associated Press.
The three boys - an 8-year-old and two 9-year-olds - appeared in juvenile court Monday afternoon, wearing shackles and jump suits and dwarfed by the courtroom chairs. Their names were being withheld because of their age.
Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head said the boys could not be charged with felony crimes because of their age but could be tried for delinquent acts that could place them in a juvenile facility for up to five years.
Juvenile Court Judge A. Gregory Poole issued a gag order preventing the lawyers from commenting further.
The father of the 8-year-old boy said his son had been falsely accused and the sexual activity was consensual. The girl accused her playmates only after her parents had learned she had sex, said the father, Brandon LeBlanc.
"There was no violence involved," LeBlanc said. "This is a clear case of a girl who didn't want to get in trouble with her parents."
He added, "In order to save her hide, she tried to blame it on rape."
The girl's mother, however, told WGCL-TV in Atlanta, "They do need to be taught a lesson because if they do it to her, they could do it to somebody else. And who knows when they become teenagers what they can do to other girls."
The case involves children from a working class apartment complex on the northern outskirts of metro Atlanta.
Prosecutors had not received the case report from police on Monday, nor had they decided whether to try the suspects as adults.