Wednesday, March 3, 1993 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Whittier Heights Stung By Assaults Of 4-Year-Old

A traveling magazine salesman is accused of luring a 4-year-old boy into a restroom last Thursday at Whittier Elementary School and sexually assaulting him. The suspect was arrested the next day and has been charged with first-degree rape of a child.

The boy and his family, new immigrants, have been traumatized and so, it seems, has the Whittier Heights community northeast of Ballard. About 100 parents and neighbors packed the school's cafeteria last night to grapple with their fears.

"Possibly this is a sign of the times," said Mary Hillyer, Whittier PTA president. "We're at a point where we have locked-down elementaries. . . . Whittier will never be the same."

Whittier Principal Ellen Punyon told the crowd that the incident has spurred tighter security. From now on, adult bathrooms and the south entrance will be locked. Safety policies, such as always sending children out of the classroom in pairs, will be more rigorously enforced.

Punyon took suggestions from the crowd and said she would work with school district officials to put together a new security plan for the school. The suggestions included locking all entrances except the front entrance, hiring professional security guards, asking parents to volunteer as guards, and installing security cameras on school grounds.

But throughout the two-hour brainstorming session, doubts and even anger at school officials bubbled forth from parents. The lingering question in many people's minds was: How did such a thing happen in the first place?

Based on police and school reports, this is what happened:

Sometime before 2:30 p.m., possibly during a 2 p.m. all-school assembly, the suspect lured the boy, who is not a student, to the school from his front yard nearby, and then to the men's room at the school. The suspect had promised to show the boy some "puppy dogs." The man at some point also gave the victim a dollar bill, the report said.

The boy was later found dazed and wandering the halls. As a teacher was walking the boy out of the school, a man came out of the men's room. The man said he was a magazine salesman. The teacher asked him to leave the premises.

Shortly after seeing the man exit the restroom, school officials called police, who arrested the suspect and released him, but then re-arrested him the next day after talking more to the victim and his parents.

Jeffrey L. Robinson, 21, of Macon, Ga., was charged in King County Superior Court with first-degree rape of a child and is being held on $150,000 bail, according to authorities.

Police said the Florida-based magazine company that employed Robinson cooperated to help find him.

The victim and his family are from "a foreign culture in which they wouldn't dream about anything like this ever happening," said Officer Lloyd Steiger of the police Special Assault Unit.

"They are devastated by the incident."

Steiger told the crowd at Whittier last night that while a terrible thing happened at the school, it was important not to blame one another. "There is no one to blame but the perpetrator."

Copyright (c) 1993 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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