By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
A pair of incidents in the past few weeks has stymied ACU and Abilene police as they struggle to uncover details about the perpetrators.
The most recent incident occurred in University Park apartments Saturday morning, when a student reported that she believed she had been raped. Workers at Hendrick Medical Center found sufficient physical evidence to confirm her belief and reported the case to the Abilene Police Department.
The woman told police she does not remember the incident, recalling only that she went to bed at about 6 a.m. Saturday, and woke up at about 9 a.m. to find the evidence.
“Without getting graphic, she had physical reason to believe she had been sexually assaulted,” said Jimmy Ellison, chief of ACU Police and director of Public Safety. “As of right now, she doesn’t recall anything about it.”
Ellison said the reason for her lack of memory has not been determined. Memory loss is a symptom of post-traumatic stress syndrome, as well as the distinguishing feature of so-called “date rape” drugs.
APD Detective Jim Davis, who is in charge of the investigation, said the victim told her story in a way that seemed to rule out foreign substances as a cause of the assault.
APD crime technicians completely processed the scene for fingerprints, Ellison said, but he declined to comment on whether they had found anything substantial. He requested that any students who saw anything suspicious or unusual at UP between 6-9 a.m. call his office. The ACU Police Department phone number is Ext. 2305.
Davis said the next step in the investigation would involve further canvassing of the crime scene and another interview with the victim in the hopes that she may remember something in the next few days.
Ellison and Davis are working together on the case, although the city is officially running the investigation at Ellison’s request. Ellison said he requested APD handle the case because they arrived at the scene first and because of the city’s superior forensics team, larger investigative force and knowledge of Abilene crime trends.
“This is another benefit of having such a close working relationship with APD,” he said. “They are a very professional police department and are quick to offer whatever assistance we need.”
Abilene and ACU police are also working together on another incident, which occurred Sept. 30 on Westheimer, near campus. A student awoke early that morning to find an intruder in her room with his hand over her mouth. When she struggled, he fled the scene, and she was not hurt.
The woman did not get a good look at the intruder and could not provide investigators with a solid description, said APD Sgt. Mike Perry, who is in charge of that investigation. Abilene and ACU police are working together on that case, as well.
“We don’t have a lot to go on,” Perry said. “There’s not much of a description and no physical evidence.”
The incidents have led university officials to issue strongly worded warnings for students living off campus and in UP to lock their doors and windows at all times, but they also have stressed for students to remain calm.
“We don’t want a sense of panic,” Ellison said.
The university has sent emails regarding both incidents to the student body in compliance with the Jeanne Clery Act, a federal law that requires schools to “make timely warnings to the campus community about crimes that pose an ongoing threat to students and employees.”
The emails are evidence of the fine line between alerting students and alarming them, said Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life.
“It seems to me to be in the best interest of the ACU community to err on the side of caution,” he said. “It allows people to know there’s been a situation and to be aware and cautious.”
The two incidents do not appear to be connected at this time, Ellison said.
But with two cases in which the perpetrators and their descriptions are largely unknown, he said investigators can get frustrated.
“It’s frustrating from the standpoint that we want to make everyone aware,” he said. “This is frustrating, but that’s why we investigate: to find out things.”