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Winthrop police: Student, 18, ‘pinned to ground,’ sexually assaulted on campus

Winthrop police chief and students discuss new sexual assault allegations on campus

On Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, Winthrop University Police Chief Frank Zebedis announced that his department would be investigating a reported sexual assault case that allegedly took place on Oct. 29, 2016 on campus.
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On Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, Winthrop University Police Chief Frank Zebedis announced that his department would be investigating a reported sexual assault case that allegedly took place on Oct. 29, 2016 on campus.

Winthrop University officials are asking for the public’s help in tracking down the suspect in an October rape on campus that was reported Thursday.

An 18-year-old Winthrop University student reported to campus police Thursday that she was the victim of an Oct. 29 sex assault on campus while walking in the area behind Bancroft Hall.

According to a Winthrop police report, the student said that she was pinned to the ground and sexually assaulted about 9:30 p.m. Oct. 29 by an unknown male in the area behind Bancroft Hall, by Margaret Nance and Owens halls.

We don’t want victims to ever feel afraid to come and speak with us. Our job is to keep them safe.

Winthrop University police chief Frank Zebedis

The report said the victim was looking for a friend’s keys in the courtyard area but that she could not find them. Police say a male suspect approached her from behind, and that the woman stumbled on a light fixture and fell to the ground as she tried to walk away.

The report said the suspect got on top of the victim, had her perform oral sex on him and then fled.

Campus police say there is no further information on the assailant. Winthrop Police Chief Frank Zebedis said he was hoping anyone with information related to the case would speak with officers as soon as possible.

“Hopefully someone will come forward and help with this investigation,” said Zebedis during a press conference at the campus police station. “We don’t want victims to ever feel afraid to come and speak with us. Our job is to keep them safe.”

Zebedis said there was no information that could point investigators to whether or not the suspect is a student.

The report said the suspect got on top of the victim, had her perform oral sex on him and then fled.

“From my perspective, from the university’s perspective, we’re always concerned about the victim,” he said. “We want what’s best for them.”

The victim reported that the suspect was wearing denim, the report said. She was unable to provide further information about the suspect.

Students were notified of the incident by email, text and phone call, a standard operating procedure for important campus-wide alerts. Winthrop officials say the campus has more than 70 emergency call boxes that can help students reach campus police.

Zebedis said his officers would work quickly to speak with any possible witnesses or leads to resolve the case. Police will also examine surveillance from nearby security cameras, he said.

He said the campus is well-lit, and that Winthrop students are encouraged to use police escorts around the area if they ever feel unsafe.

Two men have pleaded guilty recently to separate sex assaults on the Winthrop campus.

In December, John Roddey Jr. pleaded guilty to raping a female Winthrop student outside the Margaret Nance dorm on Halloween 2014. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

In April, Merrilled Stewart pleaded guilty to kidnapping a Winthrop student from her apartment building in December 2011 and raping her. He was sentenced to eight years in prison.

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

If you have information...

Winthrop police is asking anyone with information on the case to call them at 803-323-3333. They can always call if they observe any suspicious person or activity.

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