FRESNO, Calif. - Eddie Scott and Mackey Davis crossed the country chasing their football dreams, only to see their journey end at a run-down apartment complex where police say they took part in the gang rape of an 11-year-old runaway.
Friends and former coaches say the college students saw football as a way out of their Florida hometowns. So they enrolled at a school in California's Central Valley and shared an apartment in a dusty Fresno neighborhood where vacant lots bake in triple-digit temperatures and cigarette butts mix with broken plastic toys on bare cement stoops.
Police say that's where the girl wandered July 8 after running away from a group home.
Investigators said the players attacked the girl with as many as eight other people. The accuser told police she fled the apartment and told a couple strolling by that she needed help. Scott and Davis were arrested and pleaded not guilty this week.
Investigators also questioned six other men - most of them also football players for junior colleges - and warned that more arrests were likely, pending the results of DNA tests.
It's the latest in a series of criminal cases involving college athletes trying to jump-start their careers in the rural West.
Two former Montana State University athletes were charged in June with killing a suspected drug dealer and dumping the body in a farm field. In Fresno, a former basketball player from California State University, Fresno, was sentenced this month to life without parole for killing an 18-year-old college student in a botched drug deal.
It's tempting to believe such cases are the result of young men getting out of control because they are far from home with little supervision, says Davis' lawyer, Jack Revvill.
"But the obvious answer here is no," he said. "Every case has to be decided on its own."
Neighbors say they did not hear or see anything unusual on the day the accuser reported being raped, but the ugliness of the crime has left its mark.
"We try to keep adults around all the time now, just to keep an eye out," said Sal Uribe, 21, who was playing with a dozen or so kids in the parking lot.