Crime & Courts

AG warns students on break of serial rapist risk

LAWRENCE — Nearly a year after the last sexual assault attributed to a serial rapist who has terrorized two university campuses since 2000, the state Attorney General's Office is urging people near Kansas State University and the University of Kansas to remain vigilant.

Ashley Anstaett, spokeswoman for Kansas Attorney General Steve Six, said an advisory late last week was prompted by upcoming fall breaks, much like one that was issued earlier this year before spring break.

Six's office announced in March that 13 rapes — at least one every year since an attack in Manhattan in October 2000 — likely were the work of one person. Most happened between 2 and 4:30 a.m. during school breaks, and all were in off-campus housing where students commonly live.

Kansas State students had Monday off. The fall break at Kansas starts Oct. 15.

Eight rapes attributed to a slender white man between the ages of 25 and 40 happened in Manhattan, which is home to Kansas State. Five have been reported in Lawrence, which is home to the University of Kansas.

Mary Todd, director of the Women's Center at Kansas State, said that while 90 percent of rapes are by acquaintances who take advantage of a vulnerable woman, the ones attributed to the serial rapist are especially horrifying for the victims.

"With home invasion rape, what's traumatizing is that victims fear they're going to die," Todd said. "When someone is raped by someone they know, the trauma is trust and betrayal trauma. There's a different set of trauma they have to deal with. They're both bad, but slightly different."

Anstaett said the office became involved in the investigation in December, after an attack near the University of Kansas.

Officials describe the suspect as 5-feet-9 to 6 feet tall, with a slender build, and say he is usually armed and covers his face. He also is believed to have conducted some sort of surveillance before the attacks.

Law enforcement agencies deferred questions about the investigation to the Attorney General's Office.

Last month, Six's office conducted safety forums at both universities to discuss the rapes. While fewer than 10 people showed up at the forum at Kansas, Todd estimates that between 200 and 300 turned out for the one at Kansas State that afternoon.

University of Kansas spokeswoman Jill Jess said the school plans to remind students of the attorney general's advisory before the Oct. 15 break.

"I think we've tried to make sure the awareness level is high," Jess said.