HOURS AFTER SUNSET, the cars pulled up, one after another, bringing dozens of teenagers from several nearby high schools to an end-of-summer party in August in a neighborhood here just off the main drag.
For some of the teenagers, it would be one last big night out before they left this decaying steel town, bound for college.
For others, it was a way to cap off a summer of socializing before school started in less than two weeks. For the lucky ones on the Steubenville High School football team, it would be the start of another season of possible glory as stars in this football-crazy county.
Some in the crowd, which would grow to close to 50 people, arrived with beer. Those who did not were met by cases of it and a makeshift bar of vodka, rum and whiskey, all for the taking, no identification needed. In a matter of no time, many of the partygoers — many of them were high school athletes — were imbibing from red plastic cups inside the home of a volunteer football coach at Steubenville High at what would be the first of several parties that night.
“Huge party!!! Banger!!!!” Trent Mays, a sophomore quarterback on Steubenville’s team, posted on Twitter, referring to one of the bashes that evening.
By sunrise, though, some people in and around Steubenville had gotten word that the night of fun on Aug. 11 might have taken a grim turn, and that members of the Steubenville High football team might have been involved. Twitter posts, videos and photographs circulated by some who attended the nightlong set of parties suggested that an unconscious girl had been sexually assaulted over several hours while others watched. She even might have been urinated on.