Officials say rape fliers misleading public

Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor

Fliers and e-mails are being distributed around the Eastern New Mexico University campus warning students about a rapist.

Police said the information may be misleading.
The flier warns: “Women … There is a rapist in town … May have already assaulted two or more women in the Portales community. Still at large.”

E-mail messages carry similar language.
Portales police Capt. Lonnie Berry said officials are investigating a sexual assault that occurred about a month ago in the 1600 block of South Avenue G in Portales. He said the suspect in that case broke into the victim’s home to commit the assault. He declined to release additional information.

“We’re trying to keep our leads as close to the vest as possible on this,” Berry said.

Berry said police are also investigating an unrelated assault case in the 200 block of South Avenue G, but that attack was not a sexual assault. The victim was taking trash to a dumpster in an alley when the assault occurred, police said.
“It’s obvious to us from the descriptions in each case that this is not the same person,” Berry said.

Police said they don’t know who made the fliers.
ENMU police Sgt. Jerry Varnell said they’re misleading at best.

“A rape was reported approximately 30 days ago in Portales, and is under investigation by the Portales Police Department,” Varnell said in a news release. “Since that time there have been no other cases of rape or sexual assault reported to either the university police or Portales police.”

Varnell also said there have been no other crimes reported with similar characteristics.

ENMU freshman Julie Surina said she has received chain e-mails warning about a rapist.

“You don’t know what to believe,” she said.

She said she would give more credence to the e-mails and fliers if she heard the information directly from a victim of a sexual assault.

“All we’re doing is going by word of mouth,” Surina said. “We don’t know the truth.”

Gary Musgrave, ENMU vice president for student affairs, said the university may have identified the origins of the flier.

“A faculty member reported that in a class discussion about gender issues, the issue of rape was brought up. When asked how to prevent such crimes from occurring, the professor’s reply included increasing awareness, and one of the ways to do that was to hand out fliers,” Musgrave said.
Musgrave said he feels the discussion prompted students to make the flier.

“We have always been very forthcoming about safety issues on campus,” ENMU President Steven Gamble said in a news release. “If there was cause for concern, the university would take appropriate action.

“While we at Eastern are always concerned about societal problems, such as violence against women, a flier based on rumors is not the appropriate way to protect people,” Gamble said.

Berry said police have increased patrols in the area.
Varnell urged students and area residents to use common sense.

“It is important to always be safe and to use common sense, especially when walking alone at night,” Varnell said.