The Sacromento Bee
Published 2:15 a.m. PST Tuesday, December 3, 2002

UCD student recants sex assault claim

The hunt for a suspect in another case is stepped up.

By Elizabeth Hume and Pamela Martineau -- Bee Staff Writers
Sacramento Bee

A UC Davis student retracted her claim that she had been sexually assaulted on campus last week, but the investigation into a Nov. 19 assault on another woman continues, officials said Monday night.

"We have determined that this person has no malicious intent and we will not be pressing charges," said UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy.

The retraction came after UC Davis police found several inconsistencies between the woman's statements and evidence, Handy said.

"This is an extremely unfortunate event," said Jennifer Beeman, director of the Campus Violence Prevention Program.

Beeman said that while they are relieved that the sexual assault did not take place, they are concerned that this incident will prevent other women from reporting sexual violence.

It is unclear why the woman made the claims, but she will be seeking counseling, Beeman said.

Lisa Lapin, spokeswoman for UC Davis, said that despite the woman's retraction, there has been a positive outcome for the campus.

"I think that the whole episode, although unfortunate, has been healthy for the campus," Lapin said. "What these events have done is remind students that even though they are at UC Davis, they need to be concerned with their safety -- the police department can only do so much."

Despite these new findings, UC Davis police investigators plan to comb through state and federal databases of sexual predators to search for the suspect in the assault that occurred on Nov. 19, officials said.

And as they work to gather leads in the case, students at UC Davis are asking for more funding for self-defense classes and better lighting on campus.

"Whenever a woman's assaulted, I think everyone's afraid," said Melanie Madden, a UC Davis undergraduate who spoke at a noon rally.

Paul Pfotenhauer, a university spokesman, said the FBI, Secret Service and state Department of Justice have offered to assist campus police, making available their databases.

Handy cautioned students, faculty and staff to remain vigilant.

"Lock your doors. Lock your windows. Be aware of suspicious incidents and report them," he said.

In last week's reported attack, the woman, a 21-year-old undergraduate, said she was forced at knifepoint from the bedroom of her off-campus apartment about 2:30 a.m. She said she was taken by her assailant to Central Park, the football field and then the Social Sciences and Humanities Building, where seven days earlier another female undergraduate was attacked.

In the Nov. 19 attack, an undergraduate was leaving the same building about 7 a.m. after posting a flier in a classroom. She was knocked to the ground before fleeing the suspect, who was wearing a ski mask.

After that attack, security was increased around the Social Sciences and Humanities Building, but the extra security did not come on duty until 5 a.m. Now, the building, which Handy said "poses some challenges from a security perspective," has round-the-clock security surveillance.

Students and staff on campus have long complained that the building has poor lighting and many secluded nooks and crannies. UC Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef said in an e-mail Monday to about 40,000 UC Davis students, faculty and staff that lighting will be improved throughout the campus and that the architectural safety issues of the Social Science and Humanities Building "will require longer-term safety measures."

Some members of the UC Davis chapter of the National Organization for Women said they believe the campus is experiencing a rash of incidents that may be related. Handy said police are investigating all incidents, but have no evidence linking them.

Students planned to stage an all-night vigil Monday at the Social Sciences and Humanities building to express solidarity for victims and for women who may now fear for their safety.


About the Writer
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The Bee's Pamela Martineau can be reached at (916) 321-1074 or pmartineau@sacbee.com.


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