Tammy Belanger

Still no answers to 7-year puzzle
The Palm Beach Post
21 July 1991
By Frank Cerabino
Two 8-year-old girls disappeared in 1984. Victor Wonyetye was nearby both times. Police call him a strong suspect, but he's never been charged in either case.

Police know a lot about child rapist's Victor Wonyetye's lust for little girls. 

Detectives have watched the 48-year-old man masturbate as he gazed at young girls sleeping in their beds, playing miniature golf near John Prince Park or swimming at a Wellington community pool. 

They've seized his collection of children's underwear advertisements clipped from newspapers. They've talked to his stepdaughter, the girl he began having sex with when she was 11, and to his former friends, who called him "Chester the Molester."

They've put tracking devices on his car, sifted through his garbage, tapped his phone and monitored his mail.

They know a lot about him, but they don't know whether Victor Wonyetye likes little girls enough to abduct one off the street.

It has been a frustrating question. For nearly seven years, Wonyetye has been named as a suspect in the disappearance of Christy Luna of Greenacres and Tammy Belanger of Exeter, N.H. The girls, both 8, disappeared within six months during 1984.

Evidence linking Wonyetye to each case is circumstantial, bolstered by the existence of the other case but unable to stand alone. 

Wonyetye denies ever meeting either girl. He uses the word "crucifixion" to describe attempts to link him to their disappearances.

"What they should say is that for seven years they have tried to make me a suspect, but they can't," Wonyetye said last month.  

Despite his denials, the suspicion has lingered and recently grown. And as usual, it has come up short.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, police tailed Wonyetye (pronounced wuh-NET-ee) as he left his mother" Lake Worth home for a trip to Fort White, a town in North Florida.

One there, Sheriff's Office Detective Lauro Diaz secretly watched Wonyetye May 26 as he made a U-turn in his vehicle and cut across a field to approach two 8-year-old girls.

Diaz thought Wonyetye might be thinking about picking them up. But the officer didn't have a backup and was having problems with his radio. As he watched Wonyetye drive up and try to strike up a conversation, Diaz decided to scrap the surveillance. 

Diaz, according to his report, cut Wonyetye off and announced that the girls were with him. 

Wonyetye told the undercover detective to get out of the way, but the detective refused to move. Wonyetye drove away. The detective then picked up the girls and took them to their parents. 

After three weeks of surveillance, detectives arrested Wonyetye June 4 on a string of peeping-Tom burglary charges. When they searched the house he shared with his mother, they found a scrapbook of pictures he had cut out and saved.

Among them was a published photo of Tammy Belanger, one of the missing girls Wonyetye said he never knew. 

Trouble from the Start

Wonyetye grew up in Western Pennsylvania in Windber, a small town near Johnstown. His father worked 29 years in the coal mines and raised five children with his wife; Victor was their fourth child.

His father drank heavily and was rough on him, while his mother was hard to please, according to a parole report in Wonyetye's many court files.

"This rejection by the mother was covered up by her attitude that he was a bad boy, even as an infant," the report says. 

Wonyetye got his first taste of reform school in the third grade, when he was bounced out of a Catholic elementary school.

Through his school years, Wonyetye made four trips to juvenile detention centers for a total of six years. He had 10 cases in Pennsylvania juvenile courts, mostly at burglary and once for stealing a car, court records show. 

He left high school three credits shy of graduating. 

Thrill of Burglary

His father retired from the mines, and in 1959, his family moved to Dover in southeast New Hampshire. The father worked as a night security guard at the nearby University of New Hampshire campus in Durham. His mother got a factory job.

Victor got in trouble.

When he was 18, he and two other teenage boys broke into three businesses in New Hampshire and two in South Carolina the next night.

During the next eight years, Wonyetye would collect nearly 30 felony convictions for burglaries in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. 

His break-ins were odd. He rarely stole much of value, sometimes just a pair of roller skates or  carton of cigarettes or $7 from a cash register. Wonyetye "commits crimes just for the thrill of it without any concern for the consequences," his probation officer wrote. 

He met his first wife, Frances, through the social worker who visited him in jail near Manchester. Victor and Frances married Oct. 6, 1967. 

It was a short marriage. Seven months after the wedding, Wonyetye was back in jail for burglary and Frances began seeing other men. They didn't live together after that and were divorced by mail.

Unnatural Attraction

There would be other women. During the early 70s, he worked in a New Hampshire shoe factory and lived with a woman who gave birth to his child after they had separated. Wonyetye then began seeing another woman, a woman who had a daughter from a previous marriage. 

The girl was 8 years old when she first told police that Wonyetye was undressing her and putting his penis and fingers on her genital area. 

July 27, 1973, police charged Wonyetye with molesting her. 

The girl couldn't distinguish between fact and fantasy, Wonyetye's lawyer said. And the girl's mother didn't believe her, either. The state dropped the case in January of 1974, and Wonyetye married the girl's mother five months later.

Wonyetye and the child- now his stepdaughter- developed a long-term sexual relationship.

The first time it progressed to full intercourse, she had to go to the hospital for treatment, according to court records. She was 11.

"After she recovered, he started having intercourse with her again," his former parole officer wrote. 

It would be another two years before the routine rape of his stepdaughter would result in criminal charges against Wonyetye. 

"I always had a feeling that there was something wrong with his kid," said Al England, the former chief of Rollinsford, N.H., the small town where Wonyetye lived. "The girl was always at the station and crying, but I was never able to get anything out of her."

Wonyetye's wife said she never knew it was going on until she caught her daughter and her husband in the act Jan. 22. 1979. 

Wonyetye disagreed.

"This girl's mother had found us in bed many times before, but because I did not leave her she did nothing about it," Wonyetye told the judge.

The wife went to the police. Wonyetye left the state and visited his mother and father, who had been living in suburban Lake Worth since 1977.

The police picked him up there the next month and shipped him back to New Hampshire to face rape charges. He went on trial in May 1979.

Being Crucified

Wonyetye wanted to testify to tell the jury his side of the story. But hs lawyer wouldn't let him. The problem: His side of the story horrified his own lawyer. 

The lawyer, Daniel Newman, asked that Wonyetye be given a psychiatric exam, citing Wonyetye's "response of amorality and  total indifference to customary concepts of guilt."

"The total unreality with which the defendant views the alleged repeated raping of his stepdaughter suggests a psychiatric imbalance that further warrants examination," Newman wrote the judge.

The girl said that Wonyetye photographed her before, during and after he had sex with her. The girl's mother said he tried to get them to drop prosecution of the case by threatening to release those photos of the 13-year-old girl. 

Wonyetye didn't testify at his trial. He was mooning over his stepdaughter, England said.

"He was looking over at her and saying, 'I love you,' and then he was sending her love letters," England said.

The jury convicted Wonyetye, and a judge sentenced him to 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison May 16, 1979.

The judge asked Wonyetye whether he had anything to say. Wonyetye wanted to know why he was "being crucified" for something that wasn't a crime. 

The judge sent him for a psychiatric evaluation. A month later, a doctor from the state hospital wrote the judge.

"Wonyetye is not a dangerous sexual offender... and not in need of psychiatric treatment," the letter said.

Wonyetye began writing the judge, using results of the psychiatric evaluation as proof that he had been railroaded. 

"This girl used me to get and have anything she wanted simply by saying she loves me and giving me sex any time I wanted it and didn't even have to ask," he wrote. "She was the one that climbed into my bed."

His lawyer tried to get Wonyetye to stop writing "ridiculous poison pen letters" to the judge, But Wonyetye didn't stop.

"I gave her money any time she wanted it," Wonyetye wrote the judge in another letter. "I bought her a $1,600 swimming pool. I gave her all the clothes she wanted. I even gave her a $200 stereo for Christmas.

"She missed 35 days of school last year because she would call me up and tell me that I could come home and make love to her if she could stay home from school," he wrote. "She also told me she loved me and would never do anything to hurt me.

"Now I'm doing 7 1/2 to 15 years because I fell in love with her, because she gave me all her love. What does she get for this? Nothing."

Wonyetye asked the judge to grant him a new trial.

"Why is it that justice cannot be in the purest form that it is meant to be?" he asked the judge. "Why was it that I had to be given up as a statistic?"

Wonyetye appealed and lost. And in summer 1983 - after serving a little more than four years of his sentence - he was placed on parole and released from prison.

A Year of Prison

By that time, his second wife had divorced him. Wonyetye got a room at a motel in Rye, a small coastal town in southeastern New Hampshire, and started working at an auto body shop a couple of miles away. 

"When you listen to him talk, he seems right up front," said Henry Berounsky, the owner of Ben's Auto Body. "He seemed like a guy you'd want to do something for."

Wonyetye's friends nicknamed him "Chester the Molester" because he frequently had young girls with him at his motel room.

"He would get irate, bent out of shape when he'd be called that," said Joseph Smith, who lived at the motor inn with Wonyetye for about eight months.

Smith and others remember the inside of Wonyetye's car was defaced with the graffiti of 14-year-old girls' names with sayings such as "Victor loves ,,," or "... loves Victor" scribbled in pen on the dashboard, the visor, the ceiling and the upholstery.

"I found it strange that a man of his age was hanging around with teen-agers," Smith said. "He said they were more innocent; they didn't have all the baloney that other people have."

In March of 1984, Wonyetye left New Hampshire, moved in with his parents and got a job as a groundskeeper at a Wellington golf course. 

Christy Luna Disappears

A couple of months later, he was arrested by an off-duty Lake Worth police officer who spotted Wonyetye crouching in the bushes and peeking in the windows of a Beverly Drive home. Wonyetye said he was looking for a lost cat.

He was booked May 7, 1984, on a misdemeanor charge of night prowling. He posted bond and was released. 

Twenty days later, Christy Luna, a freckle-faced, barefoot, 55-pound second-grader in a turquoise bathing suit walked around the corner from her Broward Avenue home in Greenacres to buy food for her cats, Boo Boo and Skeeter. It was 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon. The 8-year-old girl never made it home.

Wonyetye went to church that morning with his parents and according to police, was at a party that afternoon in Luna's neighborhood. Someone fitting his description was seen outside the store, police said.

But he wouldn't come to their attention for months. Police had no shortage of suspects from the start.

Six days after Christy disappeared, police interviewed Willis Rambo, 26, a neighbor who lived with his older brother, Charles, 31. Willis Rambo told police that Christy and a 6-year-old girl in the neighborhood frequently came to their house to play. 

Ten days later, police interviewed that girl. She told police that Charles Rambo paid her $2 to take her pants off, and using dolls as models, she demonstrated how she performed oral sex on him. 

Three days later, Charles Rambo admitted to sexually molesting the 6-year-old. Police arrested him, searched the Rambo house and dug up the back yard, looking for Christy Luna.

Willis Rambo told detectives that he would know where his brother would try to hide the body. His brother was afraid that somebody might have seen what he did to Christy on the day she disappeared, Willis told police. 

Three weeks after the girl's disappearance, police made Charles Rambo their first prime suspect. 

"We've interviewed more than 60 people, and everything has been narrowed down to this one individual," Sgt. Dennis Connell said. 

A few days later, Christy's 6-year-old girlfriend told police that Willis Rambo also molested her and once tried to have sex with her. Police charged Willis Rambo with sexual battery.

Three days after charging the second Rambo brother, the missing girl's older sister Allison, 11, told police she had been molested numerous times by her mother's live-in boyfriend, Larry Wesley Jackson, 28.

That summer Jackson and the Rambo brothers would remain the three top suspects in Christy Luna's disappearance. Meanwhile, Victor Wonyetye would serve 30 days in jail on the Lake Worth prowling arrest and then return to New Hampshire. 


Remainder of article to be posted soon

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