Eastern Michigan University is being accused of covering up the rape and murder of a 22 year old rower, Laura Dickinson. Dickinson was discovered dead in her dorm room by a janitor in December.
Dickinson's body was discovered in her dorm room, naked below the waist with a pillow over her face. The University made a statement that no foul play was suspected.
In spite of the police opening an investigation, the school contended that there had been no foul play. The medical examiner found semen on her body and students and faculty were questioned; police even took DNA samples, and still the University contended that there was no foul play. Until another student, Orange Taylor III, was arrested on charges of rape and homicide.
In a 568-page independent report, commissioned by the university's board of regents, contends that the University "covered up the likelihood that a crime had been committed and the killer was still at large."
"The facts show that the University failed to timely and properly warn the campus community about Ms. Dickinson's death, which was unquestionably a possible homicide," says the report, by the Detroit law firm Butzel Long.
I find this appalling, not only the fact that this violent crime was committed, but that the University officials decided not to warn other students of the potential threat. How many other girls would have had to be found that way before the school admitted what happened?
Even worse, the comments from the officials in question come across like they're trying to talk themselves out of trouble.
"We probably should have said there are some suspicious circumstances here, and that probably would have ended the problem," Vice President for Student Affairs James Vick, who has been placed on paid leave, said Tuesday. "Certainly one could armchair-quarterback it, but to say there was a cover up or some sort of insidious plan there is crazy."
According to the Butzel Long report, Vick instructed that the university Public Safety Department report that described the condition of Dickinson's room when she was discovered be shredded. Vick's attorney, of course, disputes that information.
Dickinson didn't show up for finals or answer phone calls for 2 days after she was last seen (at the crew team Christmas Party on Dec. 12), that's when a janitor unlocked her door and discovered her body. Security camera footage shows Taylor entering her dorm building early December 13 and leaving 90 minutes later "carrying a gift bag Dickinson received at the party." Her family wasn't informed of the circumstances of her death or the investigation until Feb. 23, after Taylor's arrest.
The bottom line is that the university should have said something. Even if they didn't truly suspect foul play, even a simple "We don't know, please be careful just in case," would have been better than repeating "no foul play" like a broken record. I can't imagine why the the university or police would have left Dickinson's family in the dark as to the investigation. That simply makes no sense to me.