Locals stand by alleged assault victim | VailDaily.com

Locals stand by alleged assault victim

Randy Wyrick and Amy Ramunno

Just a few short weeks ago, a young woman’s best friend died in an automobile accident.

She cried, she composed herself, then sang at the funeral. She sings well, and she was rock solid that day.

A few short weeks later, the 19-year-old was reportedly asked to deliver room service to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant in his hotel room. It’s not part of her job, but she reportedly did it anyway. When she came down from the room she was in hysterics.

In the week and a half that has followed, the news media spotlight has turned to Eagle County.

Bryant, who has among the squeaky cleanest public images in America, stands accused of sexual assault, though charges have yet to be filed nearly two weeks after the alleged incident June 30. The woman appears in the nationwide court of public opinion as either a victim or a ruthless gold-digger.

“We were in the dark until after the fact,” said Paul Pastoor, the hotel’s general manager.

“She’s a great girl from a good family,” said a family friend. “I trust her. She’s been through some difficult times and she’s getting stronger.”

Friends and acquaintances continually repeat the same theme – she’s talented, outgoing, but they most often say that she has no reason to lie.

Classmate and friend Sara Kutnicki stood by her friend, saying she’s a sweet girl she trusts.

Casey Strickler participated with her in high school dramas. She called her a very talented singer and musician who loves the piano.

“She’s a good girl. She wouldn’t lie about something like this,” said Mark Lovell.

Eagle resident Sam Bartlett, a 19-year-old Colorado State University student, was ready to give Bryant the benefit of the doubt.

“Kobe Bryant has had a flawless record throughout his life and can’t imagine he would do something to jeopardize his career and personal life,” he said. “His past behavior doesn’t model that type of character.”

Eagle resident Luke McNeil, a 19-year-old University of Northern Colorado student, said, “I think Kobe Bryant has too much to lose by blowing it on her.”

The alleged victim was a high school cheerleader who was active in theater productions, a singer and musician. Friends said she writes some of her own music.

Her interests took her to college.

Reporters came knocking on the door at her 18-year-old former boyfriend’s workplace, a local convenience store. He did not appear happy to see them.

“This is a sleepy, family neighborhood,” Phil Long of Eagle, who owns Vail’s Red Lion, told the Los Angeles Times. “These are the people who make Eagle County go – the plumbers, teachers, electricians – they all live here.”

The woman moved easily among friends at a local community event a couple days ago, smiling, shaking hands with old friends and making new friends.

The eye of a hurricane.

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