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Hunting Camp Rape Case: Conflicting Details Emerge as 4th Suspect Turns Himself In and 2 Bond Out

| November 6, 2013

Frank Goggans, left, was the last of the four suspects in an alleged gang rape to turn himself in, though he bonded out today soon after his bookinmg at the Flagler County jail. The other suspects, from left, are Daniel Goggins, who has also bonded out, Charles Cowart and Kurt Benjamin.

Frank Goggans, left, was the last of the four suspects in an alleged gang rape to turn himself in, though he bonded out today soon after his booking at the Flagler County jail. The other suspects, from left, are Daniel Goggans, who has also bonded out, Charles Cowart and Kurt Benjamin.

At 1:55 this afternoon, Frank Goggans, the fourth and last suspect in the case of a woman authorities say was raped by several men on March 20 in Flagler Beach and in the western part of the county, turned himself in at the Flagler County jail. Goggans then promptly bonded out.

In contrast with the other suspects, who face more charges, Frank Goggans, 31, of 65 Leidel Drive in Palm Coast, is charged only with false imprisonment. He posted $25,000 bond.

Frank’s younger brother Daniel, 28, also of Leidel Drive, had posted $100,000 bond and was released. He is charged with sex battery—that is, rape—and kidnapping, both first-degree felonies. Two other suspects who had also turned themselves in last week, Charles Cowart, 30, of County Road 305, and Kurt Benjamin, 26, of 31 Poinsettia Lane, remain in jail on the same charges as Daniel Goggans. Cowart faces an additional charge of probation violation. He is being represented by Michael Lambert.

Palm Coast attorney Marc Dwyer is representing Daniel Goggans.

“It took eight months to be decided that there was evidence that there was a crime,” Dwyer said Wednesday evening. “That I think speaks for itself to the degree of strength of the evidence but we will engage fully in discovery and when the facts all come out we will advocate on our client’s behalf.” The state attorney’s office has yet to formalize the charges and turn over evidence to defense attorneys. “I’ll have more to say then, but for now there’s not really much to say other than reading unfounded allegations.”

When the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office publicized the charges last week, before any of the four men were in custody, accounts of the alleged events of that early morning focused on testimony by the victim, a co-worker of hers, and one other individual whose name at the time was not known, but has since been made public: Joseph Mayo, an associate of the Cowart family.

New information has since revealed the details of interviews Flagler County Sheriff’s investigators had with three of the four suspects—an interview with each Goggans bother, and to interviews with Benjamin. Cowart was apparently not interviewed by investigators. Since he was on probation at the time of the alleged incident, he may have been advised against granting such an interview—which is his right.

The details of those interviews, outlined below for the first time, speak of some inconsistencies between the men’s accounts and their own differing interpretations about the victim’s condition during the morning hours of March 20—whether she was drunk, whether she knew what was happening, and what was happening to her, and whether the acts, to which at least two of the four men (Daniel Goggans and Benjamin) readily admitted took place, were consensual.

It had all begun when Charles Cowart had to go to the Cowarts’ beach house in Flagler Beach, not far from Finn’s bar, because of a meeting of the Cowart trustees. He went there with the Goggans brothers and Benjamin. They didn’t stay there long. The four men went to several bars only to be thrown out the moment bar staff noticed that Cowart was among them. They finally settled on Finn’s, where each remembered seeing the victim.

The three men interviewed all agree that they then left with the woman (and another woman, who is not part of the investigation) to go back to the beach house, where the victim and Daniel soon went into the ocean, and emerged to have sex on the beach, where they were briefly joined by Benjamin. From that point on, the victim was either fully or partially naked, and spent part of that time being hidden from the beach house, where Flagler Beach police had been called, and where some of the men may were briefly questioned about trespassing. The police intervention over, the four men and the victim drove in Frank Goggans’s truck to the Cowart hunting camp in western Flagler, were more sexual activity took place, though accounts differ between the men as to who engaged in sex with whom. The victim was driven home by two of the four men, after Cowart and Benjamin were dropped off, the afternoon of March 20, at which point the victim reported the incident to her mother, then to police.

DNA and sexual assault examination evidence, not revealed until now, “show a mixture of at least three different DNA profiles,” according to the sheriff’s investigative report. “Daniel Goggans was identified as the major contributor.”

Other lab report findings: “Benjamin  could not be ruled out as a contributor to the mixed profile,” the report states. Semen was identified on a mattress top and on a comforter that detectives removed from the crime scene at the hunting camp. The DNA profile of that semen matched that provided voluntarily by Daniel Goggans, who never denied having sex with the victim on the beach and again at the camp, though others dispute that he could have had sex with the victim at the camp.

Investigators also concluded the following, as provided in their addendum to the arrest report:

• Daniel Goggans, Frank Goggans, and Kurt Benjamin’s statements differed drastically when asked about the events that surround this incident.

• Kurt Benjamin’s statements changed several times about the sexual acts that happened on the beach. In some versions she was standing, and in others she was on her hands and knees. Kurt Benjamin’s statements also changed as to who began having sex with the victim first (him or Daniel).

• Kurt Benjamin stated that the victim undressed on the beach and left her clothing there. Frank Goggans stated that they checked the beach area and could not find her clothes. Kurt Benjamin and Frank Goggans also both stated that the victim never returned to the beach house after going to the beach, but the victim’s shirt was found the next morning at the beach house hanging over a railing.

• Although both Kurt Benjamin and Daniel Goggans implied that the victim left all her belongings on the beach across from the beach house, the victim’s purse was found on a sidewalk a block and a half away from the beach cross-over and from the beach house.

• Frank Goggans and Kurt Benjamin both stated that the victim did not return to the beach house after being on the beach. Daniel Goggans stated that the victim did return to the beach house prior to the arrival of the Flagler Beach Police Department.

• Joseph Mayo testified that when he told Charles Larkin Cowart that there was a problem and investigation into something that occurred at the hunting cabin (referring to our investigation), Charles Larkin Cowart began to cry and was frantic to get to the cabin.

• According to testimony provided by Joseph Mayo, either Charles Larkin Cowart or his father (Charles Harold Cowart Jr.) removed a used condom, condom box and bedding from the hunting cabin crime scene with the intention of destroying evidence.

• Joseph Mayo also testified that Charles Cowart told him that the victim was naked, passing out in Frank Goggans’s truck, and was too intoxicated to make decisions for herself.

• Frank Goggans stated that when the victim was in the truck, she asked where they were going. He told her, “We are going home.” Frank stated “home” to him was the hunting camp because that was where he wanted to be.

• Daniel Goggans stated that they were going to the hunting camp/cabin because it was the only place Charles Larkin Cowart knew he could get into.

• Kurt Benjamin stated that he saw Charles Larkin Cowart go into the back bedroom where the victim was sleeping and stay there all night.

• Daniel Goggans stated that when he woke the next morning that he saw the victim in the bedroom awake, and they had consensual sex again in the morning. This is something that all other parties present at the time stated could not have happened.

• Daniel Goggans and Frank Goggans stated that the victim was given and wearing clothes at the cabin prior to going to sleep. Kurt Benjamin stated that the victim was only wearing a shirt. The victim stated that she woke up naked, and none of her belongings (clothing or purse) were at the cabin.

Below are the more detailed accounts of the four interviews conducted by Flagler County Sheriff’s investigators with the three suspects who consented to being interviewed.

Interviews With Kurt Benjamin

Benjamin first interviewed with detectives March 27. In that first interview, Benjamin started to cry and appeared upset throughout. He summarized the gathering with Frank Goggans, Daniel Goggans, and Charles Cowart at Finn’s bar. They all left the bar near closing time, accompanied by the victim and another woman, and went to the beach house at 1353 N. Ocean Shore Boulevard. Cowart forced open the door to the room in the garage.

The victim told the group she wanted to go skinny dipping. Benjamin, Cowart, Daniel Goggans, and the victim then went to the beach. The victim and Daniel took their clothes off. Benjamin and Cowart left their underwear on. Benjamin said he did not go into the water because it was too. Instead, he sat by the boardwalk and watched. When the victim and Daniel Goggans came out of the water, Benjamin testified, the victim was naked. He said she laid down on her back, and Benjamin watched Daniel Goggans have sex with her on the sand.

Benjamin’s testimony changed several times about how it happened. “He admitted that the victim performed oral sex on him while on the beach until he ejaculated on the beach,” the investigation states. Benjamin’s testimony also changed several times as to whether that sex act happened while Daniel Goggans was having vaginal sex with the victim or afterward. Benjamin said he returned to the beach house with Daniel Goggans and Cowart, and the victim remained on the beach by herself. Frank Goggans then went to the beach.

That’s when the Flagler Beach Police Department arrived at the beach house. It’s not clear who called the cops or why. Cowart was laughing, and he was talking about a skinny dipping girl, according to the investigative report. Police “asked him where the skinny dipping girl was, and Charles Larkin Cowart lied to them and informed them that she had returned to St. Augustine.”

Benjamin, Daniel Goggans, and Cowart then went to Frank Goggans’s truck. Daniel drove the truck where Frank and the victim were, picked them up, and let Frank take over the driving. The victim was wearing only Frank Goggans’s shirt. She was concerned, because she did not have her purse, and Frank told her it was at the beach house. The victim told them that she had to be at work at 11 p.m. the next day—which was actually that evening, since these events were taking place in the early hours of the morning.

Frank Goggans drove the group to the Cowart Hunting Camp. During the ride, according to Benjamin, the victim was “sleepy” and “passing out.” She was sitting next to Cowart, who, according to the report, “was trying to trying to make her his girlfriend and ‘comforting her.’”

Benjamin said the victim was “pretty much passed out” by the time they all arrived at the cabin, and he asked her if she wanted to smoke weed. She said no. She wanted to lie down.

Cowart and Daniel Goggans took her to a bedroom. Benjamin said he sat on a couch, and Frank Goggans went to sleep on the other end of the couch, though they also smoked weed and drank beer. That’s where they both spent the night. Daniel, according to Benjamin, slept in a room across from where the victim was sleeping, while Cowart went down the hall and entered the room where the victim was sleeping, spending the rest of the night there.

In the morning, Benjamin and Goggans smoked pot, went outside to throw knives, and when Frank produced a .38, shot some rounds. Cowart and Daniel joined them, and later Cowart suggested they all go horseback riding. The victim went with them, according to Benjamin. They rode horses for a while until someone gave them a phone, saying the victim’s mother had found her. They were all surprised. They went back to the hunting cabin. Daniel Goggans collected all his belongings, as if to clean out the cabin. Benjamin said they then gave the victim a ride home.

“Benjamin was very emotional during the entire interview,” the investigative report states. “He stated that he was sorry for what had happened on the beach, and when asked what should happen to Daniel Goggans and Charles Larkin Cowart, he replied, ‘Justice…or whatever it comes to, cause it’s all fucked up!’”

Detectives interviewed Benjamin again on Aug. 24. He added details about what had preceded the moment when he and his friends met the victim at Finn’s: they’d first gone to the beach house the Cowarts own, talked to Joseph Mayo there, then decided to go out drinking. Daniel, as it turned out, did not have his ID card and had to wait outside, though on occasions he’d come in, undetected by staff. Benjaim, Frank and Cowart remained in the bar drinking.

Benjamin was at a table when he noticed the victim run out of the bar and run around to a convenience store. Benjamin then realized that Daniel, Frank and Cowart, along with another woman (not the victim), ran down the road as well. He ran after them since Frank was his ride. When he caught up to them, they’d decided to go to the beach house because, Benjamin said, the victim needed to use the rest room. It’s not clear why the victim would not have used the rest room at the bar.

At the beach house, Joseph Mayo would not open the door. Someone—Benjamin could not remember who—suggested skinny dipping. Benjamin, the victim and Goggans then walked over the boardwalk and out to the beach, the victim taking off all her clothes and leaving them by the boardwalk. At this point in the night, Benjamin said, the victim was walking around and talking fine but she was intoxicated.

Their swim over, Benjamin said Daniel Goggans began fondling the victim’s breasts and getting Benjamin aroused. Benjamin according to the testimony he gave investigators, said that “when he got close to the victim she grabbed his penis and began performing oral sex while she was standing.” Daniel then began to have vaginal intercourse with the victim from behind as she was still standing up until she brought Benjamin to orgasm. He went down to the water to rinse off then left Goggans and the victim as they were still engaged in sex, by then with the victim on her knees.

As Benjamin sat in the couch at the beach house, the Flagler Beach police showed up, telling the group they were trespassing. Frank Goggans by then was with the victim, hiding her. The group picked him up and the victim, and headed to the hunting camp.

Benjamin said the victim started laying down on Cowart, “and seemed like she was winding down and done partying for the night.” When she asked for her purse, Cowart said it was at the beach house. When Frank Goggans asked her if she wanted him to drive her home, “the victim,” according to Benjamin’s account, “stated she was fine as long as she could make it to work on the next day.” She was drifting in and out of the conversation. According to Benjamin, she did not object to going to “the ranch,” as the camp was described to her, though no one specified what the ranch was.

In that second interview, Benjamin told investigators that while the victim had appeared in “party mode” previously, she was “winding down” in the truck.

Daniel Goggans would claim to investigators that he had offered her his cell phone to call someone to pick her up. Benjamin denied that Daniel had done so. At the camp, Benjamin said he was under the impression that the victim was done for the night, did not intend to have sex with anyone, and wanted to go sleep. At that point in the evening, Benjamin told investigators, it “should have been obvious to anyone” that the victim was in no condition to consent to sexual activity with anyone.

When detectives pointed out several inconsistencies in Benjamin’s account, Benjamin apologized and said he was certain the victim consented to performing oral sex on him. A detective asked Benjamin “how he thought the sexual acts on the beach were consensual and why he thought she could not have consented to sex at the cabin.” Benjamin, the investigative report continued, said that “at the beach they had just run back from the bar, the victim was walking and talking and went swimming in the ocean. [Benjamin] stated that the victim was still in ‘party mode’ and her ‘adrenaline was still pumping.’ [Benjamin] stated on the way to the cabin that the victim’s demeanor changed to one where she was winding down, heavily intoxicated, and passing out. [Benjamin] insisted that if he had known that someone was going back into the back room of the cabin with the intention of having sex with the victim that he would have stopped them because he felt it was obvious that she could not consent to sexual activity.”

Interview With Daniel Goggans

Daniel Goggans was interviewed on March 27. He described the unsuccessful bar-hopping—until the quartet reached Finn’s, where Cowart drank and sang karaoke. There, all four had noticed the victim, and all four talked to her. Daniel told her of the beach house down the block and asked her if she wanted to go. According to Daniel, she said yes. They all went there with another woman as well.

In Daniel’s account, the victim took his hand and went down to the beach to skinny-dip. The current was strong enough, he said, that a wave knocked him down and he and the victim collided, injuring his lip. When the two came out of the water, he said the victim laid down on the beach “and started having sex in the missionary position,” according to the investigative report, which continues: “Daniel stated he was ‘making out’ with the victim and she ‘guided his penis into her vagina.’ Daniel stated that while they were having sex he asked the victim, ‘can I hit it from the back?’ The victim turned over and he began having sex with her from behind. While he was doing that Kurt came over and asked, ‘can I get some head?’ Kurt then started receiving oral sex from the victim. Daniel stated this turned him off but then he had ‘his orgasm’ in her vagina.” He then left for the beach house, with Benjamin still engaged in oral sex with the victim, who eventually returned to the beach house naked.

The victim, according to Daniel Goggans, let out a “sigh like she had just come back from a brisk swim,” then looked at Benjamin and allegedly said: “I don’t give a fuck.” Daniel told investigators he did not understand the meaning of the statement. He took a shower, and when he was done Flagler Beach police were at the house, though Frank Goggans and the victim no longer were. Daniel claimed Frank was “keeping her safe.” The police gone, they then all went to the hunting camp in the truck, though Daniel could not remember who was sitting where, nor could he remember whether there were any stops along the way. At the end of the interview, he said they all did stop at a store so Cowart could buy condoms—but on the way to Finn’s, not afterward. Daniel claims the group asked the victim if she wanted to go home, and she declined, saying, according to Daniel: “Let’s just go.” She was angry over not having her phone, and not being able to find her purse, however.

During his interview with investigators, Daniel was wearing the same pair of jeans he said he’d given the victim to wear at the hunting camp, and claimed a stain in the groin area was paint—and that his girlfriend had worn the pants as well. He said he slept in a separate room from the victim at the camp, though at around 11 the next morning he went to her room and the two, he said, had sex again. When he showered and went outside, the other men were outside as well, so was the victim.

Daniel said they offered the victim their phones so that she could call someone, because they knew she had left without telling anyone where she was. According to Daniel, the victim did not want to use their phones, only that she had to be at work. But she was unaware that it was Wednesday, and when she was informed of the fact, she said she wouldn’t have to be at work until the next day. So they went horse-back riding—and taught the victim how to ride, according to Daniel, who said “she enjoyed herself.” It was after the horseback riding that Cowart’s grandmother told them of a phone call—the call from the victim’s co-worker, who also put the victim’s mother on the phone. Daniel, according to the report, stated that the victim told her mother she was fine and would be home soon.

At the grandmother’s orders, they cleared out of the camp, and all five drove back toward Palm Coast, first dropping Cowart off at the Beer House bar, then Benjamin in the R Section (it was actually the P Section), and finally, the victim, at her own home.

Daniel said that to the best of his knowledge, Cowart did not have sex with the victim, but that he—Daniel—wanted the victim to be his girlfriend. He said “the victim seemed completely sober, and she was a willing participant in all sexual activity,” though the investigative report does not specify the timeline of that assertion. Daniel denied that his brother Frank had sex with the victim.

Detectives asked Daniel if there was anything he would have done differently that night. The report of that interview concludes: “Daniel stated he would have kicked in the door at Joseph Mayo’s house so that the victim could have stayed there with them and would not have been nervous. Daniel stated he believed the victim was nervous at the cabin because it was ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ Daniel stated he knows the cabin is a ‘creepy’ place.”

Interview With Frank Goggans

Frank Goggans was interviewed on March 27. He recalled the family meeting at the Cowart beach house—but also that Joe Mayo told him he had to leave, since he was not family. Frank then “jumped ahead in the story,” according to the investigative report, and described seeing the victim singing at Finn’s with a man he thought was her boyfriend. By then all four suspects were at the bar, drinking, until they decided to go back to the beach house. When some of them went swimming, Frank said he stayed behind with a woman whose name he did not know (not the victim), who had come along with them from the bar, and with whom he ended up having sex in a room near the garage area.

They were interrupted by Cowart, who picked the lock to go in, Frank said, then apologized. When asked again about that moment later in the interview, Frank said Cowart may have used the rest room. Moments later, Daniel—dripping wet and sandy from the beach—went through the room to use the shower there.

Frank told investigators he got dressed and left the house, when, across the dunes, he noticed Cowart “making out” with the victim, who was naked. Frank said he gave the victim the shirt he was wearing, and noticed police going to the beach house. Cowart went back to the house, while the victim, Frank said, looked at him to see what they should do. “You have three options,” Frank said he told her. “You can stay here, go back to the house or walk down the beach.” The victim started looking for her clothes at that point, unsuccessfully.

Pressed to explain the timeline of that moment again later in the interview, Frank said the victim ran closer to the house to find out what was going on with the police activity, then returned to where Frank was, by an apartment complex. Frank said he returned to the beach house after he “got the all clear that he would not be arrested.”

But in the same interview he had also said that he and the victim were picked up by Daniel, Benjamin and Cowart, one of whom was driving Frank’s truck. Frank said he gave the victim a choice—either stay where she was (though she was partially naked at the time) or join them in the truck. They then drove to the hunting camp.

There, Frank says he played music for a while then passed out until morning, when he went outside to shoot a gun for target practice. The rest of the morning’s account doesn’t differ from that of his brother, though when the group dropped off Cowart later, it was at Cowart’s truck.

An investigator asked Frank if he told the victim where they were going. Frank said he told the victim: “We are going home.” He was willing to take the victim home, he said, but he was going home. Frank then told investigators: “At that time home was camp 5,” saying he referred to “camp 5” as home because that is where he wanted to live.

They stopped once on the way to the cabin, at a gas station on the westbound side of State Road 100, right before the 1-95 overpass (the Mobil gas station that happens to be the focus of another major investigation by the sheriff’s office, that of the murder of the store clerk there in February. A suspect was recently arrested in that murder.) At that point, Frank told investigators he thought the victim was sober, “because she was walking, running, singing and talking,” and because he said “he did not see the victim take anything or consume any alcohol to the point that he thought she was impaired.” They’d stopped, he said, for cigarettes and something to drink.

Frank could not recall where everyone was sitting in the truck and did not recall the victim lying on Cowart. The gate at the camp was locked and Cowart couldn’t get it opened. Once in the cabin, Frank said Cowart and Daniel gave the victim a tour of the property, turned the television on, smoked some marijuana and he, the victim, Cowart, Daniel and Benjamin all hung out in the living room area of the cabin. He could not recall at what point the victim went to go lay down.

Frank’s memory started to get worse at this point in the interview. He said he was using a computer and “mixing music” so he could not be certain where the victim or others were, though he noticed Benjamin watching television and falling asleep on the living room couch. Frank said he then went to bed on the same couch, “pretty much head to head” with Kurt Benjamin. He did not remember the victim, Daniel’s or Cowart’s actions at the cabin.

By the time he woke up, the victim was lying in the back right bedroom, which he referred to as “Skeeter’s bedroom” (Skeeter is Cowart’s nickname), alone, perhaps with a peach-colored blanket covering her. He assumed Daniel was in the opposite bedroom, where he usually slept at the cabin. The rest of his account relates what others had said had happened outside around midday. He said he never had sex with the victim.

Frank told investigators that Daniel had told him he (Daniel) had sex with the victim on the beach, and Cowart and Benjamin both had sex with the victim as well, but Frank did not know where that happened. Frank then voluntarily provided a DNA  sample and signed a consent form.

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1 Response for “Hunting Camp Rape Case: Conflicting Details Emerge as 4th Suspect Turns Himself In and 2 Bond Out”

  1. Lop Treadmill says:

    Sounds like “Redneck Rashomon” to me.

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