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UM president seeks investigation of rape allegation

2014-01-26T14:20:00Z 2014-04-11T13:44:05Z UM president seeks investigation of rape allegationBy Dave Matter dmatter@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8508 stltoday.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. • University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe has asked for an independent investigation into MU’s handling of the case of former Mizzou swimmer Sasha Menu Courey, who committed suicide in June 2011 after allegedly being sexually assaulted by MU football players.

Wolfe sent an email to the chancellors of the four UM system campuses Sunday afternoon notifying them of his request that the university Board of Curators hire independent counsel to conduct the review.

“Such an independent review will be beneficial to all our campuses so that we can determine if there were any shortcomings with respect to MU’s handling of this matter and, if so, ways in which to improve the handling of such matters in the future,” Wolfe wrote.

Wolfe has also asked that the four campuses lead a comprehensive review of their “policies, training and procedures concerning the prevention and reporting of sexual assaults and the availability of mental health services.”

“We must ensure that each of our campuses has the necessary resources to educate the campus community about sexual assault and prevention, as well as an effective process for reporting such incidents, plus adequate capacity to address mental health issues among our students, faculty and staff,” Wolfe wrote. “Once we have done a complete examination of our policies and procedures on our campuses and identified any areas of need, I am pledging to make available any additional resources, including funding from the UM System budget, to our campuses to ensure that we are addressing this issue in the appropriate manner.  As leaders of our campuses, I am asking you to also volunteer new ideas and new investments that are necessary to ensure the safety of our students.”

Shortly after ESPN aired its story on the suicide and sexual assault claim by Menu Courey Sunday morning, the university released two statements, saying in one that the MU Police Department submitted information to the Columbia Police Department on Saturday night and that the university will assist Columbia police “in any way possible as they conduct their investigation.”

As of Sunday, Columbia police did not have any record of a sexual assault case involving Menu Courey.

"I have checked our records system and I am not finding a report like this in our system," Officer Latisha Stroer, the department's public information officer, said in an email. Stroer said she would check further with detectives on Monday.

In a separate statement released Sunday, MU athletics department harshly criticized the ESPN piece, referring to its “skewed and flawed reporting” while calling it “strange and inappropriate” for the university to be criticized for not investigating the assault when Menu Courey’s parents chose not to respond to MU’s request for their input. The statement also rebutted four key elements from the story.

Friday, after the “Outside the Lines” story was posted online, Menu Courey’s mother, Lynn Courey, told the Columbia Daily Tribune that MU sent the parents a letter last February telling them about a chat transcript from December 2010 between Menu Courey and a rape crisis counselor. In the transcript, acquired through an open records request, Menu Courey recounted the sexual assault. In MU’s letter to the parents, the university asked if they had more information about the incident and whether they wanted MU to investigate the assault. They did not respond to the letter, Lynn Courey told the Tribune.

“They were the ones that had all the information of Sasha’s correspondence. We didn’t have any of that,” she told the Tribune. “We were the ones asking for information in order to understand. We didn’t know anything.

“We didn’t know they needed our permission to investigate something that happened, and they were aware of it for over a year. This is the part that kind of has me puzzled.”

Missouri athletics countered in Sunday’s statement, “If they wanted an investigation, they simply could have responded or made a report to law enforcement. Instead, it appears that great lengths have been taken to paint the University in a bad light simply because it asked Sasha's parents about their wishes rather than immediately launching an investigation based on a highly ambiguous chat transcript.”

Here’s the complete release from the MU news bureau pertaining to a police investigation:

“Our sympathies continue to be with the parents, family, friends and teammates of Sasha Menu Courey for her loss.

“As a result of information that first came to the University of Missouri's attention in a Friday, January 24th report by ESPN's Outside the Lines program related to former student-athlete Sasha Menu Courey, the MU Police Department submitted information to the Columbia Police Department on the evening of Saturday, January 25th. This information from ESPN's story included names of individuals who might have relevant information regarding the alleged February 2010 assault.

“After review of this new information which was previously unavailable to MU, it was determined that the alleged assault occurred off campus, and therefore lies within the jurisdiction of CPD. The university will assist CPD in any way possible as they conduct their investigation.

“MU was previously unable to go forward with an investigation because there was no complaint brought forward from the alleged victim or her parents, and there was otherwise insufficient information about the incident. Privacy laws prohibited MU medical personnel from reporting anything Sasha might have shared with them about the alleged assault without her permission.

“MU first became aware of the alleged assault in late 2012, after Sasha's June 2011 death, upon reviewing the transcript of an online chat that Sasha conducted with a crisis hotline believed to have taken place in December of 2010.

“MU's Office of Student Conduct asked Sasha's parents in a letter dated Jan. 28, 2013, if they had any information that would help identify those involved and if they wanted an investigation of the alleged assault to occur, but they did not respond. In the fall of 2013, after continued communication with ESPN through numerous Sunshine requests, MU asked that ESPN share names of anyone at the University who they claimed knew about the alleged assault; they refused.

“Out of respect for the CPD process, MU will not comment on the investigation.”

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