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Campus crimes may be linked

By Jesse Lewis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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Following reports of recent burglaries and a sexual assault in the neighborhood north of campus, police are urging students to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe.

A female UA student called police to report she was raped early Sunday morning in the front yard of her house at North Mountain Avenue and East Mabel Street.

Prior to the rape, Nikki Ellerman, Kristina Kronenberg and Maggie Ryan, close friends of the victim, experienced an intrusion in their home north of campus Oct. 27.

A man entered the students' house on North Park Avenue and East Drachman Street at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 27, while four of the five students living in the house were home, said Ellerman, a communication and religious studies senior.

The man was a lean, clean-cut 22- to 25-year-old Hispanic male with a goatee. All three of the students estimate him to be between 5 feet 11 inches and 6 feet tall, weighing 165 to 170 lbs.

The women were in the living room of their house when they realized there was someone in one of the bedrooms.

Ellerman said she went to the bedroom where she saw an unknown man in the room and asked him if he needed help.

The man was asking if he was at a particular address, which was not the address of her house.

The man then backed out of the house and Ellerman realized his penis was sticking out through the zipper of his pants and he was masturbating, and had been masturbating in the bedroom, Ellerman said.

Ellerman said she and her roommates forcefully shut the door to keep the man out of the house and called police immediately after he left.

"We were not fearful, we just thought he was a creep, weirdo, masturbator," Ellerman said.

The students said their close friend was sexually assaulted 2:30 a.m. Sunday by a man matching the description of the man who entered their home, minus the goatee.

Ellerman said she and the victim went to O'Malley's bar on North Fourth Avenue Saturday night and took a cab home.

After the cab took Ellerman home, it took the other student to her house a few blocks away, alone, Ellerman said.

Ellerman said the student later was raped, and after calling police and receiving medical attention, told her friends her story.

Ellerman said her friend told her when she arrived at home there was a white car in front of the house, which she disregarded.

The student entered the front gate that surrounds her yard and was at her front door with the key in the lock when she heard the gate close behind her, Ellerman said.

When she turned around to see who it was, a man grabbed her and covered her mouth with his hand, Ellerman said.

"He put a knife to her throat and told her if she was cooperative it would go much easier," said Kronenberg, a communication and media arts senior.

He dragged her backward off the front porch and into the yard and raped her on the ground in the front yard, Kronenberg said.

The student's roommate was in the house, but she did not hear anything, Ellerman said.

The student tried to make conversation with the man because she had read that it would make the situation less severe, Kronenberg said.

"She said he was cordial to her," Kronenberg said.

Afterward, the man asked if she had her keys, which were in the front door, stole her purse and drove away in the white car, Ellerman said.

Kronenberg said the student immediately called police who arrived at the house two minutes later, and the student went to the hospital for necessary tests. She received a small cut on her face from the altercation.

"It's not like she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She didn't do anything wrong. It was in her front yard with her roommate just upstairs," said Ryan, a psychology senior.

The students said police told them a man fitting the description they gave has been reported in an average of one rape a week for the past month. The man also reportedly matches the description of the suspect in other incidents in the area including a man who has been watching women and stealing their underwear in a campus-area laundry room, the students said.

"It's like the serial rapist again, everyone needs to be on high alert," Kronenberg said.

Two burglaries occurred Saturday night in the area of North Park Avenue and North Mountain Avenue and East Mabel Street and East Drachman Street.

Another house between North Park Avenue and North Mountain Avenue was robbed Saturday evening for the second time in three days, and several laptops were stolen, Ryan said. She said the students who lived in the house were also friends of her and her roommates.

Another house near East Mabel Street and North Vine Avenue was robbed Saturday while the seven male residents, all students, were sleeping. Ryan said she also knew these students.

Ellerman, Kronenberg and Ryan, all roommates, said 10 of their close friends have been affected by the north campus area crimes.

"The main message to girls on campus is please call the police if there is anything suspicious, get Mace, don't do anything alone, don't walk alone," Ellerman said.

Kronenberg said most people think it's not going to happen to them, but students should always be aware of their surroundings.

"Don't think this can't happen to you. I thought that for three years and now it's happening to all of us," Kronenberg said.

Sgt. Carlos Valdez, Tucson Police Department spokesman, said because of the incidents he wants students and residents of the area to take extra safety precautions.

Police advise students walking at night to always use the buddy system, carry Mace, use SafeRide or call UAPD for an escort, and have 911 programmed in cell phones to dial quickly if a situation arises, said Sgt. Eugene Mejia, UAPD spokesman.

The students affected have all taken extra measures to ensure their own safety.

"I've never felt so uncomfortable in my own house. It's just a really unsettling feeling that I wouldn't want anyone else to go through," Ryan said.

The students said they don't sleep unless there is at least one male in their house and Kronenberg, Ryan and Ellerman all have golf clubs in their rooms for protection. They have also installed extra light sensors in their home and keep the windows and doors locked at all times.

Valdez said police are unsure if the incidents are related, and there is no way to tell yet if there is a connection, but the incidents are being investigated, Valdez said.

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