Campus Assault Suspect Eludes Arrest for 2 Years, After ‘So I Raped You’ Facebook Message

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Two years after a former Gettysburg College student finally saw charges filed over her 2013 campus sexual assault, the man suspected of sending her a Facebook message that said, “ So I raped you,” remains on the run.

Shannon Keeler, 28, and her attorneys question how Ian T. Cleary has avoided capture in an age when people are tracked by their cellphones, internet connections, security cameras and credit card purchases. Investigators, led by the U.S. Marshals Service, believe the 30-year-old from Silicon Valley is likely overseas and on the move.

“How is he financially supporting himself? How is he able to travel abroad without detection? Has he assumed a false identity?” asked Andrea Levy, legal director of the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, who represents Keeler. “Who’s helping him?”

Keeler was sexually assaulted on a snowy December night in her dorm room. She texted friends for help even before he fled, and went to police the same day.

For years, local officials declined her pleas to file charges, even after she showed them the startling Facebook messages she discovered in 2020. They reversed course weeks after she went public in an Associated Press story that examined the reluctance of local agencies to prosecute campus sexual assaults.

For Keeler, the years of limbo have been painful, even as she moves forward with her life and career. She works for a software company and is getting married this fall. But she remains on high alert for an arrest that could come at any time, knowing a trial could disrupt her life for months or even years.

“She’s had to push and push and put herself out there … and then he’s just literally gone on with his life. It’s hard to measure that impact on her as a human being, (and on) her family, her partner,” Levy said. “There’s a cost. There’s a real human cost. It’s someone’s life.”

After leaving Gettysburg, Cleary, 30, graduated from Santa Clara University, near a family home in Saratoga, California, worked for Tesla, then moved to France for several years, according to his website, which describes his self-published medieval fiction.

Adams County District Attorney Brian Sinnett, who filed the arrest warrant on June 29, 2021, called the duration of the search “somewhat frustrating.”

“I just have to think this person is accessing resources from somewhere,” Sinnett said.

Neither Cleary’s father in California, a marketing executive who has served as a professor and trustee at Santa Clara, nor his mother in Baltimore returned messages this month seeking comment.

U.S. marshals said the search remains active. An Interpol Red Notice has been issued, asking police agencies worldwide to detain Cleary, although he is not yet listed in the public database, which includes a few dozen rape and sexual assault cases.

“We put a lot of work and effort into it,” said Deputy U.S. Marshal Phil Lewis, warrant supervisor for the office in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. “Any crimes against women and children, we take seriously and we make those types of cases a priority.”

As the #MeToo movement continues to shape society — and some adults, including accusers of Bill Cosby and Donald Trump, use the courts to seek monetary damages if it’s too late for criminal charges — college students are also seeking accountability.

In California, students are lobbying for campus health centers to keep rape kits on hand, or pay for victims in the throes of trauma to travel to a hospital for an exam. More states are requiring colleges to survey students on the climate around sexual assault, and groups such as End Rape on Campus are working on tools to make school data more accessible.

And some law enforcement agencies have shown sustained commitment, including police who stayed on top of advances in DNA science to make an arrest this year in a 2000 knifepoint rape on a Penn State golf course.

In 2004, they matched the DNA to an unsolved 1999 golf course rape in Michigan. In 2011, they filed a “John Doe” arrest warrant, identifying the subject only by his DNA before the 12-year statute of limitations in Pennsylvania expired. Using genetic genealogy, they identified the suspect this year as Michigan business owner Kurt Rillema, and matched the DNA samples to a coffee cup he discarded at a Lexus dealership before charging him in both cases.

“The police so often get beat up for doing the wrong thing. Here, it’s pretty impressive, they were on the ball,” said lawyer Conor Lamb, who sued Rillema last month on behalf of the Penn State accuser, a 42-year-old woman in suburban Philadelphia.

Rilemma’s lawyers plan to challenge the privacy issues raised by the genetic sleuthing, especially the way his DNA from the coffee cup was obtained without a warrant.

“Everybody wants to solve old crimes, but the process is so invasive, and when it’s done without a warrant, people ought to think about that. It’s creepy and scary,” said defense lawyer Deanna Kelley of suburban Detroit.

In Gettysburg, meanwhile, a small town known for its Civil War history, Sinnet said there is now more coordination between campus and local police, in the hope that more college rape victims can have their day in court.

Keeler is still waiting for that day, nearly a decade after she reported the attack and Cleary left school, ending the college’s Title IX investigation.

“Since then, he has again run away from facing this felony charge,” she said, while she tries to “to finally close this never-ending, painful chapter of my life.”

Source : Yahoo!