MARIETTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Three boys, ages 8 and 9, were charged Monday with raping an 11-year-old girl last week, court officials and police said.
"Never in my 20-plus years of law enforcement have I conceived of something like this," Police Chief Michael Wilkie of Acworth, Georgia, told CNN.
Clad in blue jumpsuits, the two 9-year-olds and one 8-year-old appeared in court in Cobb County, north of Atlanta, on Monday afternoon and were ordered to remain in custody until a further hearing. Family members were in court for their appearance, which was closed to reporters.
Wilkie said the girl told investigators she was raped Thursday evening. She was examined by doctors after her family reported the allegation late Saturday, and investigators questioned her extensively on Sunday, he said.
The father of one of the boys told The Associated Press that no force was used against the girl, and said the allegations have been leveled because the accuser "didn't want to get in trouble with her parents." Watch chief describe parents' reactions to charges against their sons »
But Wilkie said children that young cannot legally consent to sex, "so we have to go with the charges we have."
He told the AP one of the boys was accused of threatening to hit the girl with a rock before the alleged assault. He 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 AP reported.
"The investigators who are following up on this have had a lot specialized training of forensic interviews with children," Wilkie told CNN. "We've sent them to a number of courses for this, and so we're confident that we've done that part of the investigation as best as we can. We think her story at this point is credible and that's why we went forward with the warrants."
He said investigators have lined up counseling for the girl, "and we'll follow up on this and hope that it comes to as best a resolution at the end as we can."
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."
Cobb County District Attorney Pat Head told reporters the current rape charges against the boys would be replaced with juvenile charges, since they are too young to be prosecuted on felony charges. Under Georgia law, juvenile defendants must be at least 13 before a case can be transferred to the adult system.
The juvenile charges could bring up to five years probation and time in a state youth home if the boys are ruled delinquent.
Juvenile Court Judge A. Gregory Poole imposed a gag order on participants in the case, limiting further explanation, Head said.