Thursday, March 02, 2006


This week's "hey Martha" story has been about an attack at Drury University, and the slow-walk of information from police to the public.

The skinny timeline:

•Sunday, a student told Drury security that a man in a hoodie followed her from her dorm to a classroom building and was waiting outside.

•Monday, the student said she was attacked in a bathroom at Smith Hall.

•Tuesday, police released information about the alleged attack:
The SPD would like to make those students and the public aware in and around Drury University of an attempted sexual assault which happened yesterday afternoon around noon. The victim was grabbed and brought into a bathroom at Smith Hall which is where the attempted assault took place.

The suspect is described as a W/M 5'10" 150pds, short black hair, dark colored goatee, black hoodie, dark ball cap and blue jeans.

The investigation is still on-going.
•Wednesday's story in the local newspaper noted that officials at a nearby community college and high school weren't told about the reported assault.

•Thursday, the newspaper editorialized:
On Monday, a Drury University student reported an attempted rape to campus security. It wasn't until Tuesday afternoon that Springfield police released information that "an attack had taken place" and that they were looking for a suspect.

We believe it was too little, too late.

Maj. Steve Ijames of the Springfield police said Wednesday that investigators were still gathering information. He expressed concern about making too much information public since police are still unclear about details of the incident.

Police spokesman Matt Brown was much more direct in comments published in Wednesday's News-Leader: "If we looked at every single attempted crime and (publicized them), we would inundate the public. It's a fine line. Attempted crimes occur every day. ... It was not a rape. If we put out every one we would be accused of crying wolf."

Our view is simple: Don't keep us in the dark.
Thursday afternoon, police issued this news release:
In reference to the alleged attempted rape that occurred on Drury campus on 02/27/06 – CIS Investigator, Detective Lori Everett was assigned to the case and the investigation has concluded with the alleged victim being issued a summons for filing a false police report.
Time now for a few questions:
•Does this help explain why the SPD didn't alert the neighborhood to a stalker-sex fiend?
•If so, did reporters know the cops thought the student was a liar?
•If yes, why wasn't this reported?
•Do police have evidence the student is lying, or is it an absence of evidence that leads them to their conclusion?
•How did the student sustain "moderate injuries" if she lied about the stalker? Did she hurt herself? If so, in what fashion?
•Are police routinely skeptical when it comes to reports of stalkers and/or sexual assaults?
•Did the student confess to making up the stalker?
•Why didn't police release the student's name when she was cited with the misdemeanor?
•Should she be named?
We suspect that many reporters knew, as early as Tuesday afternoon, that police had doubts about this case.


Anonymous said...

Ron, it seems kind of doubtful that the reporters knew Tuesday. This looks bad for them now, so why would they knowingly make it worse for themselves? If they thought the cops had doubts, they probably would have held off on further stories to let the dust settle.

On the police side, I agree with the editorial. So they had doubts about the girl's story. But let's just pretend their suspicions were wrong, the guy was for real, and in the interim another attack occured. Looks pretty bad, eh? More information is always going to be better when it comes to the safety of women on our local campuses.

Anonymous said...

I take back the statement I made last week about Brown being a smart spokesman for the PD...

Ron Davis said...

Anon: Why would reporters work on a follow, even if they knew the cops thought the student was lying? Because a follow-up story was mandatory. The idea of them "holding off on further stories" is ludicrous.

Anonymous said...

I know reporters at at least two highly influential outlets were strongly cautioned that the story was likely NOT completely as reported to the police. But there's no acceptable way to assert that publicly, is there!?! Until completely discredited, you have to assume the report is true and proceed.

To answer some other questions, Ron--

SPD was skeptical early on, but (as indicated above) they needed to proceed on the assumption the story was true.

The "victim" told police she was lying, and physical evidence of her injuries as well as other circumstances, support her admission

The student's injuries were self-inflicted, again by her own admission.

Police did release the "victim's" name when asked-- it's in the paper, dude.

Ron Davis said...

Anon: If police were strongly cautioning the media that the story was likely not true, as reported, then yes, there is a way to assert that publicly -- by reporting that police aren't sure if the story is true.

Glad the woman's name is in Friday's paper.

Anonymous said...

No dice-- going pubilc that you might not believe the report is a no-win prospect, because you'll be seen as blaming the victim instead of looking for the criminal.

Anonymous said...

Zactly: Police have their doubts but they have to assume she is telling the truth.

BUT the police don't want the media hype to get out of hand so they privately caution reporters that the whole thing may not be what it seems, so proceed accordingly.

Sounds like the police and media acted responsibly to me.