Three boys, ages 8 and 9, were being held Tuesday in a detention center on charges of kidnapping and raping an 11-year-old girl near a suburban apartment complex, officials said.
The alleged attack happened Thursday and the girl's mother reported it to authorities Sunday, Acworth police Capt. Wayne Dennard said.
"The victim said they were playing outdoors and the girl was forced into a wooded area where she was sexually assaulted, where one of the boys raped her," Dennard told The Associated Press.
The three boys — an 8-year-old and two 9-year-olds — appeared in juvenile court Monday afternoon, dwarfed by the courtroom chairs and wearing navy blue jump suits and shackles. Their names were withheld because of their age.
Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head said the boys could not be charged with felony crimes because of their age but could be tried for alleged delinquent acts that could place them in a juvenile facility for up to five years.
The next step will be for the court to schedule a hearing to determine how to proceed in the case, Head said.
Juvenile Court Judge A. Gregory Poole issued a gag order preventing the lawyers from commenting further.
Acworth Police Chief Mike Wilkie said one of the boys was accused of threatening to hit the girl with a rock before the alleged assault. Wilkie also said the investigation is "far from over," and investigators are looking into claims that after the alleged attack, the girl talked about it with her friends at a slumber party.
The girl's mother told WGCL-TV in Atlanta, "They do need to be taught a lesson because if they do it to her, they could do it to somebody else. And who knows when they become teenagers what they can do to other girls."
The case involves children from a working class apartment complex. Acworth, 30 miles northwest of Atlanta along the shores of Lake Allatoona, is a town of about 17,000.
Acworth police said their department has never before investigated allegations of rape where all the parties were this young. "This wouldn't be normal anywhere, but especially not Acworth," Dennard said.