When a 21-year-old woman bought a Groupon last year for a massage at Enta Thai Spa on Tamiami Trail in Naples, she expected to leave relaxed and pain-free.
Instead, the college student, who was home for summer break, said she felt “disgusted,” “taken advantage of,” and “violated.”
Bovaphanh Phomphakdy, the woman’s masseur who also owns the spa, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of sexual battery without serious injury. He is accused of penetrating the woman. Phomphakdy, also known by his nickname Enta, was released Wednesday on a $25,000 bond.
The Naples Daily News does not identify sexual assault victims.
“It was one of the worst experiences of my entire life,” she explained. “I felt like I was just a piece of meat.”
Her frustrations didn’t end with the assault. Though she immediately reported the incident to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and underwent rape testing the same day, an arrest wasn’t made until Tuesday — nearly a full year after the assault occurred.
It took the Florida Department of Law Enforcement nearly seven months to determine the presence of male DNA inside the victim and send the report to the sheriff’s office. Once the report was received by the sheriff’s office, another two months passed before a warrant to obtain Phomphakdy’s DNA was sought. It then took at least five more weeks before those results were returned to the sheriff’s office.
According to police reports, the woman told deputies Phomphakdy inched his hands into her underwear before she felt something penetrate her.
“At one point while she was on her side and the male was standing behind her, she felt something warm enter her vagina more than an inch,” the police report states. “She immediately told the male to stop and ended the massage.”
“I’d never had a Thai massage before so I didn’t know,” she explained in an interview. “I thought he just needed to get lower on my back. I thought he knew what he was doing, so I trusted him.”
She was unsure whether he used his fingers or genitalia, according to the report.
“It really upset me how he denied it immediately. He’s an absolute scumbag,” she said. “I never thought that could happen to me.”
Phomphakdy, who co-owns the spa with his wife, denied the allegations when deputies interviewed him, saying it’s possible the woman felt a bottle of oil he carries on his belt enter her, according to the report.
“There’s no way that Bovaphanh Phomphakdy, who worked so very hard to establish this successful massage parlor, would jeopardize that business for a solitary fleeting moment of gratification,” said John Musca, Phomphakdy’s attorney. “He’s an intelligent man. There’s no way.”
Phomphakdy’s wife, Vanina Phomphakdy, agreed. She said in an interview that her husband’s DNA could have been found in the woman if she touched herself after he massaged her hands.
When the young victim received a call from Collier Sheriff’s Detective Scott Peterson notifying her of Phomphakdy’s arrest on Tuesday, she broke down.
“I just burst into tears. I was a mess, but a happy mess,” she said.
She hadn’t heard from Peterson or anyone else working on the case since August. “I was absolutely shocked. I didn’t even know other DNA had been found.”
Part of the delay was the result of ongoing problems at FDLE.
“Our turnaround times are a result of an extensive loss of trained analysts and a huge influx of sexual assault kits that had previously been unsubmitted,” said Steve Arthur, an agency spokesman.
Peterson also cited a heavy workload as a reason for the delay in seeking a warrant. “It took around two months because we’re always in backlog,” he said. “That’s just how it works.”
The warrant was issued on the same day Peterson completed it, according to the arrest report.
It typically takes four-to-six months for rape kits to be processed, according to Project Help, a nonprofit in Collier County that provides counseling for victims of sexual assault and administered the victim’s rape kit. However, starting July 1, all kits must be tested within 120 days of their submission.
“Seven months is a long time to wait, there’s no excuse for it,” said Eileen Wesley, the Executive Director of Project Help, referring to the length of time it took for the victim’s kit to be processed. “Hopefully this new law will give victims less stress in the process going forward.”
By Annika Hammerschlag of the Naples Daily News