St. Edward’s University PD searches for man who entered university apartments, sexually assaulted student

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — St. Edward’s University police are searching for an unknown man who they say entered an apartment on Sunday and sexually assaulted a student inside.

The department issued a crime advisory Wednesday, stating the aggravated sexual assault occurred on Nov. 7 between 4:30 and 6:30 a.m.

At this time, UPD says it doesn’t know how the suspect got into the apartment, which is part of the university apartments on Woodward Street.

UPD says it searched the apartment and area but wasn’t able to find anyone matching the suspect’s description: white or Hispanic male, athletic build, shaggy hair, wearing a light blue t-shirt and navy blue flannel shirt with an unknown white emblem on top, as well as brown shoes.

“Very on edge, it’s not something like you want to hear happens on campus, and that it could happen really to any of us,” said senior Madison McElwee, who lives in the same student housing complex.

The student housing website indicates Hilltopper Heights is for upperclassmen.

“Me and my roommate don’t lock both locks… so, that’s kind of scary, because, I don’t know, they didn’t really like say if they broke in or if they were let in… it was really scary,” said sophomore Kiana Mallari.

That’s how many students were feeling — even those who live nearby.

“I just texted my group of friends, and we were like, ‘oh my god.’ Like we were just freaked out,” said freshman Maria Peralta.

KXAN dug into the university’s crime reports and found that another sexual assault occurred at the same university apartments, Hilltopper Heights, on the night of Oct. 15. That case, according to the university’s crime log, is still active.

An assault with injury happened at the same apartment complex in August and is also still an active investigation, according to the log.

Student residents who live in Hilltopper say no security check-in is required to enter the buildings.

In a statement to KXAN, St. Edward’s University said it is deeply committed to the safety and wellbeing of its students.

“University staff has ensured the current safety of the student and will provide ongoing support and safety resources to the student and the campus community. This is an ongoing investigation, and the University Police Department is working with the Austin Police Department, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and SAFE Alliance,” said the university.

The university police’s webpage says they operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

St. Edward’s University’s 2021 Annual Security and Fire Safety Report documents four rapes happened on campus in 2018, and all occurred in on-campus student housing facilities. In 2019, one rape happened on campus, also in student housing. In 2020, three rapes were documented on campus property, and two of them happened in on-campus student housing facilities, according to the report.

The department says crime is never the victim’s fault and provided general safety tips for students, including:

  • Always lock all doors and windows in your home.
  • If possible, avoid walking alone.
  • Download the Topper Safe app and use Friend Walk as an alternative.
  • If someone bothers you, do not be embarrassed to attract attention to yourself: yell

The university said it has increased the frequency of patrols in the area and will improve outdoor lighting this semester.

Still, students are starting to change their habits. Mallari says she keeps pepper spray, and she and her roommate will be closing both locks on their door.

McElwee and her roommate are also on high alert.

“We said like, no more walking alone and, like, obviously before we go in, take a look around,” she said.

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