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Officials: Facts ‘not the same’

Troy police and university officials confirmed this week that a university student had been involved in an off-campus assault more than week before the recent kidnapping and attempted murder of a 20-year-old student. However, both police and university officials said the cases appeared to be unrelated.

“The facts of the cases are not the same,” said Troy Police Sgt. Benny Scarbrough. He would not elaborate on the specifics, citing ongoing investigations in both incidents.

According to police reports, an international student reported that she was sexually assaulted at approximately 6:25 p.m. Jan. 1 in her residence in the 100 block of University Avenue. Police released no further details about the incident.

On Jan. 10, the other student reported being abducted from her Smith Street residence and forced to drive her vehicle to a remote area of the Needmore community, where she was beaten and stabbed before being abandoned after her vehicle ran out of gas. She has since been released from the hospital.

Troy University Dean of Students Herbert Reeves said Wednesday “there’s a tremendous difference between the two incidents … (in the first incident) there was not an abduction … no weapon involved.” And, he said, officials had little detail about the suspect.

Reeves said the university was notified of the Jan. 1 incident when it occurred, but officials elected not to activate the emergency warning system to alert faculty, staff and students.

“One, school was not back in session and the students would have gotten the information at home,” Reeves said. “And second, in talking with police at that particular point in time, we did not sense that we had a predator out there.”

Reeves said the “timely warnings” are issued based on the particular information of the incident and whether or not officials believe there is an on-going threat to others.

He also said the university had received reports of two other incidents classified as “sexual misconduct or sexual assault” in the fall of 2010. “But in both those cases, the victims were acquainted with the suspects,” he said. “We did not put out the alert because, based on the information we had, there was not an imminent threat or danger to anybody else.”

The university did, however, activate the alert warning after the Jan. 10 incident. Since then, the university has sent almost daily communications to students, faculty and staff; conducted a town hall meeting to discuss safety issues; and redoubled efforts to educate students about safety. In addition, the university and the city of Troy are partnering to offer a $10,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest of the suspect in the Jan. 10 incident.

And last week, the university discounted a rumor of a third assault incident, which was reported to have occurred after the Jan. 10 incident. “Again, let me dismiss this rumor in the strongest possible terms,” Reeves wrote in an email to students on Thursday. “We have received no reports of further assaults to students, faculty or staff since the Jan. 10 incident was reported.”

Law enforcement officers are seeking information from the public that may assist them in identifying the suspect in this case,” Scarbrough said in a press release Tuesday. “Anyone who has information about the identity of a black male (seen) walking towards Troy late Monday night or early Tuesday morning in the Needmore Road area near County Roads 7731 or 7735 is urged to call police.”

Police have released a composite sketch of the suspect, compiled with the help of a sketch artist from the Hoover Police Department. They also have described the suspect as an African-American man, about 5 feet, 8 inches to 6 feet tall, having a flat nose, light facial hair and a strong body odor. At the time of the attack, he was wearing dark clothes and a toboggan.

Anyone with information should call the Troy Police Department at (334)566-0500, TPD Secret Witness Line at (334)566-5555 or the Pike County Sheriff’s Office at (334)566-4347.