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‘He likes them when they are ripe . . .’ – Aunt of girl in sex video speaks out

Stephanie "Sparkle" Edwards | Provided photo

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 5, 2008.

On Feb. 1, 2002, the Sun-Times anonymously received a copy of the videotape at the heart of the R. Kelly child pornography trial and turned it over to police, who had been investigating the R&B singer for some time for allegedly using his fame, wealth and influence as a pop superstar to meet underage girls and have sex with them.

Three days later, the girl in the videotape was identified for reporters by her aunt, who said that her niece would have been 14 at the time the tape was made. When the paper reported that police were investigating the tape, it withheld the names of the girl and her aunt to protect the family’s privacy, although the names were known to police and the interview with the aunt was on the record.

Since the aunt, Stephanie “Sparkle” Edwards, has now testified in the case for the prosecution, the paper is publishing that interview in full.

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Interview Jim DeRogatis and Sparkle, 2/4/02 Tape 2 Side 1, 000-508

Q. [Your niece] would have turned 17 this past September. You said she looked 15 when this was done.

A. She’s probably 14, ’cause the hairdo and everything.

Q. Why do you place it back that far?

A. By looking at the hairdo. And when I saw it the first time, listening to the background, I remember the music, what was being played. I just remember the Backstreet [Boys] song, and I try to remember when that was out. She looks about 14.

Q. How did you introduce [your niece] to Kelly?

A. When she was 12, I had her come to the studio on Ohio, the old CRC [Chicago Recording Company]. I wanted him to hear her rap, and she did. She came with her mama after a church service, she rapped for him, she was encouraged.

Q. Did you record with Kelly?

A. On his first album. My first album.

Q. You split with him for a number of reasons?

A. Mainly this one and other personal peeves. He didn’t want me to have a boyfriend. He doesn’t want anybody to have friends who he tried to work with. Guys or women, it’s a controlling thing.

Q. You’re building your own career?

A. Definitely. I’m doing what I can, every day. It’s rough, but I’m gonna make it.

Q. Are you making another album?

A. Yeah. It was Motown, but I’ve left Motown, so it’ll probably be Universal.

Q. So you introduced [Kelly] to [your niece]?

A. At twelve.

Q. Did you ever talk to your sister and say, “We got to get her out of there?”

A. Yes. I had a conversation with my sister, when I was thinking of leaving the whole R. Kelly situation. I said, “Val, you need to get her, ’cause I am not there to watch her anymore.” And she was basically, “Oh, I don’t want to deal with it.” Because they didn’t know his history, they trusted him with their daughter. They are basically victims.

Q. When did you break away from him?

A. It was late ’99. ‘Cause we actually settled a release agreement ’cause I wanted out; we did that in 2000.

Q. Did you tell [your sister] then???

A. I told her that before then. A long time.

Q. When did you think he might be doing this???

A. I knew the history. Was told of the history, never seeing anything. I just was always like, “C’mon, [R.].” Whenever she was around, I was, “C’mon, c’mon.” Just knowing how he is, I just felt if I wasn’t around, he was going to watch her. With MY niece. I don’t want anything like that to happen to her. I know he would possibly do to other girls.

Q. You got a call from who, who wanted to show you the tape???

A. Don’t know. They came to my place and me, being crazy enough to know if it was my niece, I let the guy come in and show me.

Q. They wanted you to I.D. so they could shake him down?

A. I don’t know what they wanted, if they wanted money, but I’m assuming that’s what their M.O. was.

Q. Do you think they were packaged to that attorney??

A. Could have been.

Q. Where did his name come from?

A. Remember back . . . December . . . I have it all written down, 12/17 . . . 12/14 is when I got a call. The weekend passed, 12/17 I got another call from the Buddy Myers guy’s office. They wanted me to have my family to view the tape to give them a chance before they went to the authorities. So I said, “Well, I am not going to have my family do anything unless I know it is my niece. I am not going to put the family out there.” So that’s my whole introduction . . .

Q. You called your sister?

A. Called her the next morning. ‘Cause I didn’t know what to do, ’cause they wouldn’t believe me if I had gone to her myself. I had my brother do that. I think they got lost for a day — wasn’t answering the phone. They believed it and everything. I’m not sure if my niece confessed it but they believed me. Right now, I don’t know what’s going on. I mean, she worked up to two weeks ago; it’s going on three weeks that I haven’t heard from her, but I am sure somebody in my family knows. But they are not talking about her.

Q. Do you think Kelly paid to send them away?

A. He either paid to send them away or blackmailing them, saying you are going to go down if I go down. So you might as well, whatever, take my side. I don’t know. Robert is crazy enough to do anything right now.

Q. You talked to the states attorney’s office?

A. I tried to. I tried to do whatever.

Q. What are they up to???

A. I hope they are not going to let him get away. I just . . . I mean the most horrible thing about the tape is when he’s relieving himself in her mouth and it’s . . . I can’t even fathom . . .

Q. He’s hurting young black girls.

A. Black? I don’t know what other colors he’s tried but . . .

Q. Your desire is he . . . ???

A. Stops! Gets some help, stops, you know, whatever, really.

Q. That other girl?

A. I don’t know who that is. Poor thing.

Q. What about the [J.B.] girl?

A. [R.] is her cousin. She, I guess she brought her in, probably hanging out with them or whatever, I don’t know. I’m not around them enough to know the particulars of what’s going on or how that went about, so I can’t really comment on that.

Q. How many girls you think he’s done that to?

A. Too many to count probably. They definitely have to be young. His whole M.O., he stated this to me long ago, he likes them when they are ripe and young because he can mold them into what he wants them to be, and control their minds and make them do what women “should” do. That’s what he thinks you know, be a servant, be the “yes.” She’s on there calling him Daddy. What kind of daddy would do this to their daughter? Makes me wonder what he may do to his kids.

Q. How old are you now?

A. Let’s not go on with that!

Q. You were not in his target?

A. Oh no! I am too smart. Robert couldn’t, that’s why he went mental when I left.

Q. Did he ever try???

A. Oh yeah, of course. You get more when you don’t give in, plus I didn’t want that whole business relationship with he and I to intertwine.

Q. What do you think happened with Aaliyah???

A. Speculating? It happened. I have an ex-friend who was on the road with him when he was R. Kelly and Public Announcement. He saw what was going on. He quit the group because of that.

Q. I just want to know . . . [B.H.] is partly motivated by he’s tired of seeing young girls get hurt . . .

A. I’m sure. A lot of people would agree.

Q. But is it partly that [B.H.] wants revenge for the whole Aaliyah thing???

A. I don’t know. I’m sure he would tell ya. He’d have no problem telling you.

Q. He never has. I’m sure that tape came by [B.H.]. Not directly. He’s wondering about the police investigation.

A. My career isn’t as fruitful as his, but . . .

Q. You never married [G.K.]. Yet! I’m just wondering if he uses that tape for his own use??

A. I’m sure. I’m definitely sure. Every man who’s sane in this world would look at the tape and say “It could be MY daughter.” Me, whatever . . .

Q. How can you say she’s 14 there?

A. I can’t say with certainty. But with the hairdo. She doesn’t have her hair like that now. She wears braids now. And by this tape, it looks like she’s been doing it longer than 14. It’s definitely a plan, a script, she’s used to it, she’s like, “Now I have to do this.”

Q. He hands her something . . .

A. $200. Didn’t catch that? At the end he puts it on the counter, “here’s your money.” I caught that right off. . . . I was like “Wait a minute. She is not a f—— whore.”