Four Flagler Men Sought in Kidnapping and Gang Rape of a Woman at Cowart Hunting Camp
FlaglerLive | October 30, 2013
Note: Charles Cowart turned himself in at the Flagler County jail Thursday afternoon, Oct. 31.
Last Updated: 6:04 p.m.
The Flagler County Sheriff is looking for four men accused of kidnapping a woman they’d encountered at Finn’s bar in Flagler Beach and gang-raping her at the Cowart Hunting Camp in western Flagler County in the early hours of March 20.
The four men are Daniel Goggans, 28, of 65 Leidel Drive in Palm Coast, Kurt Benjamin, 26, of 31 Poinsettia Lane in Palm Coast, Charles Larkin Cowart, 30, of 11361 County Road 305, and Frank Goggans, of 65 Leidel Drive. Frank Goggans is charged with false imprisonment.
It isn’t clear why the sheriff’s office did not release the information until today, though word of the alleged rape had been spreading. A FlaglerLive reporter asked Sheriff Jim Manfre about the case at 1:30 this afternoon, in a brief conversation at the Flagler County Courthouse. Manfre said he would look into it to see what could be released. The Sheriff’s Office issued the news release at 3:40 p.m.
Cowart was last in the public eye when he rode a horse drunk and partially unclothed, to the cheers of passersby, in Bunnell in September 2012. He was sentenced to probation and drug treatment. The Goggans brothers made news in April, when a fight involving a gun landed Daniel in jail on an aggravated assault-domestic violence charge. The charge was reduced to disorderly conduct. Goggans pleaded no contest. He paid court costs of $323. Adjudication was withheld.
In the alleged rape case, witnesses said the woman, who detectives said was incapacitated due to alcohol consumption, left the bar with the two men and wound up on the beach where she was sexually battered by Daniel Goggans, Benjamin and Cowart, according to the release issued Wednesday afternoon. The men then transported the intoxicated woman to a hunting cabin in West Flagler County. Frank Goggans is accused of placing the woman in his vehicle against her will and transporting her to the cabin. “The victim was physically helpless to resist at the time”, according to detectives. Daniel Goggans, Benjamin and Cowart are charged with assisting Frank with transporting the victim.
The victim, according to the information filed with the charging affidavit, has consistently maintained that she has no memory of the events after leaving Finns bar until awaking the next morning. Throughout the investigation the victim indicated that she just wanted to know what happened to her. The Sheriff’s Office’s Detectives Linde and Miller met with the victim to go over their findings after multiple interviews had been conducted with witnesses and suspects. When informed that witnesses claimed she went swimming without her clothes on the night in question, the victim stated that going skinny dipping does “sound like something I would do.” When told that witnesses indicated two men had sex with her on the beach, she said that was “not something I would do,” and began crying. Once the victim was told that the investigation revealed she had been put in the suspect’s vehicle without her clothes, she began crying more and stated she did not want to hear anymore.
The information is based in part on statements made by the four suspects in a heavily redacted report.
The victim was interviewed by an investigator in what would have been a matter of hours after the alleged attack, after a sexual assault examination. The victim said she worked until around 22:45 p.m. on March 19, then went to Finn’s with two co-workers for drinks and karaoke. She said she had five drinks between 11 p.m. and 1:30 a.m., not an unusual amount for her to consume on such occasions, she said, noting that she’d never blacked out from drinking. But she also noted that she left her drink unattended on a few occasions while she used the restroom, raising the possibility that she may have been drugged. The last thing she remembered from that night, the victim said, was sitting on the bar stool at Finn’s.
She woke up the next morning to the sound of gunshots. She was extremely lethargic and was having trouble waking up. An unknown man came into the room where she was and told her it was 9 a.m. She woke up later and realized she was on a bed without any sheets (there was a comforter with a yellow flower pattern), that she was naked, with none of her belongings. When she asked for something to wear, she was brought a pair of jeans and a tank top.
At first the victim was embarrassed: she never would go home with strangers. She was trying to figure out who the men were and where she was. She assumed at first that maybe she’d been drunk, and had possibly gone home with someone. But she could not find her phone or her clothes. When she asked for those belongings, the strangers–by then, there were four of them around her–told her: “We don’t know what you did with them.” One of the men was called “Skeeter,” from what she heard others calling him. Charles Cowart’s nickname is Skeeter.
One of the strangers introduced himself as Moses. He had a long goatee. He was later determined to be Frank Goggans, according to the authorities’ information. Another introduced himself as Daniel–later identified as Daniel Goggans. Kurt Benjamin was also present, though the victim did not describe him in the initial interview. She could describe the scene: a dead raccoon was hanging from a tree. The men were shooting guns. There were knives everywhere. The victim was scared by all of this, and was just trying to act normal to not draw too much attention to herself.
The victim told her interviewer that the men then told her they wanted to ride horses at “Skeeter’s grandmother’s home.” The men got into a truck and went over to ride the horses. The filed information is unclear at this point as to which home precisely the victim ended up in, though the only home mentioned in the context of the narrative is “Skeeter’s grandmother’s home.”
A man unconnected to the case was walking on A1A in the area of North 15th Street in Flagler Beach the morning of March 20 when he happened to see a purse on the sidewalk. He reported it to police. A Sheriff’s deputy found a cell phone and a driver’s license in the purse: they belonged to the victim. A detective called the victim’s mother, who was “shaken and stated that she has not heard from her daughter since last night and this is not like her.” The mother knew the co-worker the victim had been with at Finn’s. By locating the co-worker, detectives were then able to learn that the victim had had contact with Cowart–and that Flagler Beach police had responded during the night to a house the Cowarts own on North A1A.
Detectives interviewed the co-worker who took the victim to Finn’s, where he said she had about three shots and six beers, then–as he was paying the tab–the victim jumped off of her stool and went outside. The victim’s co‐worker did not see her leave. He asked someone where the victim had gone. The reply: “She left with those goons.” The co-worker had recognized Cowart at the bar that night, but had avoided him, as he usually does. He’d known him for a long time.
When the co-worker learned of the police find of the abandoned purse, he went to the Cowart home on the beach and inquired about the victim. There was an ominous sign outside: the victim’s t-shirt, hanging on a banister. The report redacts the identity of the person who answered the door at the beach house. That person told the co-worker that Cowart had been at the house the previous evening, as had the cops, but the person had not seen the victim. The person did help the co-worker get in touch with Cowart at his grandmother’s house. That’s how the co-worker was able to speak with the grandmother, who confirmed that there was a “blond girl” at the house. The co-worker asked to speak to her. Daniel Goggans got on the line.
“Ya, she is here,” Goggans told the co-worker. But it took a while–a minute and a half–before the victim was on the phone, sounding like she had just woken up. She said everything was OK, and that she was coming home. It was 1:30 p.m. About 30 minutes or an hour later, she was able to speak with her mother.
Sometime between 2 and 2:30 p.m., the victim’s mother asked the victim by phone if she was safe, and the victim stated she was, but kept saying “they are taking me home soon.” She was scared and disoriented, and she did not want to draw too much attention to herself by telling her mother to hurry and come get her. The men, meanwhile, said–according to the victim–that they were “shocked that anyone had found her out there.”
After the phone call, “Skeeter’s grandmother” told the men they had to leave the hunting camp. Frank Goggans drove them back there, where they collected belongings and left. “Skeeter” was supposed to take the victim home in his vehicle. Instead, they stopped at the Beer House bar, where “Skeeter” went. He did not drive her home, she claimed, though that’s unclear: in a follow-up interview she said that while the men where driving her home, Cowart had been talking about making a car disappear in a marsh, and that he could hide a body in the marsh. Cowart, according to her recollections, said he thought it would be fun to kill a cow with a hammer. Cowart also allegedly told the victim: “Thank you for letting me play with you last night.”
The victim told investigators that, even though she could not remember anything after Finn’s, she was confident that someone had had sexual intercourse with her. The victim knew this because she was on her menstrual cycle, and there was “evidence of it on her thighs.” The victim stated that only happened if someone had had vaginal intercourse with her. The victim stated that when she was at the bar she had a tampon in. When she woke the next morning, she did not. The victim also stated that even though she could not recall what happened after the bar, she was certain she had been on the beach at some point because she was covered in coquina sand and it was “caked on her scalp.” The victim also stated she must have hit her head at some point because she had a “goose egg” on her forehead.
The victim said that she does not use prescription narcotics. She does smoke marijuana on occasion, but pot does not cause loss of consciousness. The victim said she had not smoked any that night, and there was no reason why she would have “blacked out” like she did.
On march 21, according to the sheriff’s information, Det. Linde was told by an individual whose name was redacted that Cowart had admitted to him that he’d had sex with the victim, that she’d been naked on his lap on the drive from the beach to the hunting camp, and that she had been “coming on to me” in the truck (Cowart’s alleged words). Frank Goggins had stopped at a Kangaroo station so Cowart could buy condoms.
A check of Cowart’s bank records and video surveillance corroborate that Cowart’s debit card was used for two transactions at the Flagler Beach Kangaroo, but that it was Daniel Goggans, not Cowart, who made both purchases, and that condoms were not bought. Nor was Cowart seen entering the store. When detectives investigated the hunting camp, the person who was showing them around the place told the detectives that Cowart had made the following statement: “I don’t know what the other guys did but I know that they had sex with her.”
The accounts of the police interviews with Benjamin, Daniel Goggans and Frank Goggans are entirely redacted, with one exception: Benjamin consented to a DNA sample.
The investigation concluded the following in the langiage provided by the detectives’ information:
- The victim was “physically helpless” as defined by law (Florida State Statute 794.011(e)), meaning she was unconscious, asleep, or for any other reason physically unable to communicate unwillingness to an act.
- While the victim was “physically helpless,” Daniel Goggans, Kurt Benjamin, and Charles Larkin Cowart did commit the crime of Sexual Battery by Multiple Perpetrators as defined by Florida State Statute 794.023(2). During the same criminal transaction or episode, more than one person committed an act of sexual battery on the same victim.
- Frank Goggans did commit the crime of False Imprisonment as defined by Florida State Statute 787.02(1)(a), meaning forcibly, by threat, or secretly confining, abducting, imprisoning, or restraining another person without lawful authority and against her will, against the victim by placing her in his vehicle and transporting her against her will from the area of Flagler Beach to a hunting cabin on the west side of Flagler County. The victim was physically helpless to resist at the time.
- Daniel Goggans, Kurt Benjamin, and Charles Larkin Cowart committed the crime of kidnapping as defined by Florida State Statute 787.01(1)(a)–forcibly, secretly, or by threat confining, abducting, or imprisoning another person against her or his will and without lawful authority, with intent to Commit or facilitate commission of any felony, when they took the victim who was still “physically helpless,” placed her in Frank Goggans’s truck and transported her from Flagler Beach to the west side of Flagler County to facilitate the crime of Sexual Battery.
Numerous other findings, including the lab report, were redacted.
Anyone who has information on any for the four is asked to call the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office at 386-313-4911 or Crimestoppers at 1-888-277-8477. You may remain anonymous and you could be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.