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Armed man rapes student in home

Cavalier Daily News Editors

The University is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of an unidentified man who entered the apartment of a University student at about 5 a.m. Thursday morning, threatened a male and a female student with a gun and then raped the female.

The suspect, described as a black heavyset man between 5 feet 8 inches and 6 feet tall, in his mid-20s, also robbed the two students.

The incident occurred in the Venable area, between 15th Street NW and Rugby Road off of Grady Avenue, Charlottesville Police Lt. J. E. "Chip" Harding said.

Harding declined to give a more specific location to protect the identity of the victims.

"At approximately four in the morning a male and female student returned [home] after going to parties," he said. "The male, a friend, stayed the night and they fell asleep on a bed with their clothes on. The male awoke to a handgun being pushed against the side of his head. The assailant told them to switch places" on the bed.

The assailant would not let the male look at him and blindfolded the female with her shirt, he added.

The description the victims were able to give police came from what little they were able to glimpse of their attacker, Harding said.

After the rape, the assailant "forced the female to take a shower," he said, to ensure no evidence was left that might contribute to his identity.

He added that although there was another female in the apartment, the two students told the assailant no one else was home. But when he heard a toilet flush the assailant became agitated and made the victims knock on the bedroom door of the other student, who was unaware there was an intruder in the house. She did not answer the door.

Before leaving, the assailant forced the two victims into a room and threatened to kill them if they called the police, Harding said.

Before notifying the police, the male student drove the female student to the University Medical Center at about 7:30 or 8 a.m.

Four forensic detectives are inspecting the entire house for DNA, fibers and fingerprints, and compiling a list of potential suspects, Harding said.

Investigators have not excluded the possibility that the incident is related to an Oct. 15 rape that occurred under Beta Bridge on Rugby Road, but the two incidents do not appear to be related, judging by to the rapist's behavior, he said.

Both University Police and Charlottesville Police increased their patrol of the area due to the incident and University Police have been fielding calls from concerned parents and students. In response, police officials and University administrators are trying to step up community safety awareness.

"It is extremely important that we all take necessary precautions to ensure our own security," Asst. Dean of Students Aaron Laushway wrote in a letter to the University Greek community. "Please increase your vigilance about your own surroundings, whether you are in transit or at your own residence."

"We are providing some extra patrol in that area and assisting the city in any way we find possible," University Police Captain Michael Coleman said. "We have security seminars in all first- year dorms and Rape Aggression Defense classes for women. We also encourage all students to use the Escort Service and if walking, travel in groups."

Unfortunately things do happen despite safety precautions, University Police Chief Mike Sheffield said.

"We're not immune to any types of crime or criminal activity," Sheffield said.

"You can put all the safe practices in place and still be victimized," he said.