UPDATE: Sexual assault suspect in custody for incident at Paine College

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Friday, March 8, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Paine College Police Chief Joseph D. Nelson confirms that the rape suspect is in custody. Click here to read more.

News 12 First at Five / Thursday, March 7, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- A rapist is on the loose following an attack at Paine College.

It happened early Thursday morning when officers say a stranger gained access to an on-campus dorm, then attacked the victim in the bathroom.

Now, campus police and Richmond County deputies are not only looking for the person responsible, but reviewing safety procedures in hopes something like this will never happen again.

Shantha Gowda works at the Rape Crisis Center in Augusta.

"The majority of our cases are acquaintance rape. Three out of five happen in the victim's home or the assailant's home," Gowda said.

But officials say a stranger was responsible for the sexual assault that happened in the Graham Hall dormitory on Paine College's campus.

"It's very rare for it to be a stranger," Gowda said.

And it's a scary situation for students on campus since the suspect hasn't been caught.

"It is scary when we have these, but it does happen from time to time," Gowda said.

Brandon Brown, the VP of Institutional Advancement at Paine College, says, "At no time did we feel the students safety was in jeopardy here on campus."

But students on campus aren't feeling very safe right now. We spoke with one student, who was too scared to go on camera and is upset with the way the school handled things.

"They haven't sent nothing to the email, nothing to the text message," she told us.

"We do have an emergency notification system in place here at the college. Which students can be communicated through via email, cell phones," Brown said.

Students say that notification system wasn't used. Officials say other students were never in danger because all of the dorms are locked down after midnight.

"Our campus security monitors the doors if a student needs to get access into the facility, they can contact campus safety," Brown said.

But, students say, the doors are often left propped open by rocks and sticks.

Despite concerns by students, and an ongoing manhunt for the suspect, campus officials say they handled the situation appropriately.

"Proper procedures were taken to ensure the safety of the students last evening," Brown said.

Initial report:

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Richmond County Sheriff's Office is searching for the man involved in a sexual assault that happened on the Paine College campus Wednesday night.

Investigators say the victim was attacked in the first-floor bathroom in the Graham Hall dormitory by an unknown man.

The victim described the suspect as a black male with bad acne between the height of 5'8" and 5'9" and looked to be between 18 and 20 years old.

The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment.

If you have any information, call the Criminal Investigative Division at (706) 821-1020 and ask for a Violent Crimes supervisor.

Paine College issued a statement about the incident:
"It is regrettable that a sexual assault took place on the campus of Paine College on March 7, 2013. Upon notification of the incident, Paine College officials in conjunction with local law enforcement agents immediately took action to investigate the occurrence.

The college has security measures in place to protect students and the college is continuing to work with law enforcement to bring the alleged rapist to justice.

The Richmond County's Sheriff Office is taking the lead in the investigation and more information will be forthcoming as it becomes available."

Tommy Powell, the lead pastor of New Birth Augusta, is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

“As a pastor in the city, I cannot sit quietly as if this does not bother and sicken me to my stomach. So I’m not stopping with the $500 reward, I want to also challenge other Pastors in the city to match New Birth Augusta’s gift as we put a demand on the community to take ownership and speak out against this crime,” said Powell in a news release.


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