Wichita State president seeks safety task force in wake of Fairmount Park attack

Police look for evidence Saturday near where a woman was sexually assaulted and set on fire in Fairmount Park on Nov. 14.
Police look for evidence Saturday near where a woman was sexually assaulted and set on fire in Fairmount Park on Nov. 14. File photo

The rape and burning death of Wichita mother Letitia Davis has prompted Wichita State University to reach out to neighborhoods surrounding it.

WSU president John Bardo asked his school’s chief counsel on Thursday to set up a task force to study safety and neighborhood improvement, starting with the Fairmount Neighborhood south of campus, where Davis was fatally injured on Nov. 14.

But her assault wasn’t the only crime he had in mind, he wrote in a statement.

“We all felt the horror a few weeks ago when Letitia Davis was brutally assaulted in Fairmount Park and later died from her injuries,” Bardo wrote.

“In the months before that, there were reports of assaults, car break-ins and other crimes in the area south of campus.

“Yes, we live in the largest city in the state, and yes, crime will happen.

“But, enough is enough.”

Ted Ayres, WSU’s Vice President and General Counsel, said he hopes to quickly set up a collaborative effort, done in a small task force composed of neighborhood, city and university personnel.

He got the call about this from Bardo Thursday, he said, but hopes to quickly find members and draw up a plan to explore how to help the city, police and residents. One name mentioned by both him and Bardo as one member is Darryl Carrington, president of the Fairmount Neighborhood Association, Bardo said. Carrington is a WSU student and works as a plumber for WSU. The university also has skilled researchers who study urban problems and can recommend suggestions, Ayres said.

“The early development of the Fairmount neighborhood parallels the founding of Fairmount College, which became Wichita State University,” Carrington said in a written statement. “The neighborhood and WSU share the same DNA. We are mutually dependent and I agree with President Bardo that enough is enough. Our residents look forward to working with WSU on these issues.”

WSU doesn’t want to run this task force, but will offer its expertise, Bardo said. Ayres will head the task force called “Enough is Enough.”

“We thought we could let Letitia Davis and what happened to her be a spearhead for action,” Ayres said.

He doesn’t want membership or discussions to be limited to Fairmount, which is south of WSU. “We have neighborhoods on three other sides of us, and they need to be part of the community concern as well,” Ayres said.

Davis, 36, was attacked as she walked in Fairmount Park. She was raped, beaten and set on fire. She died after spending more than a week at Via Christi Hospital St. Francis. She was rushed there after the attack and was being treated for lacerations and burns to 55 percent of her body.

Cornell McNeal, 26, has been charged with rape and capital murder.

“We don’t live in a bubble at Wichita State,” Bardo wrote in his statement. “Our success and future are tied in every way to the success of the surrounding area.

“We know we have the expertise and capacity on this campus to help.

“It is time to turn those feelings into action.

“We will continue to work closely with the Wichita Police Department and city officials on safety issues south of campus. The areas beyond campus are not our jurisdiction or responsibility, but we want to be partners in helping address the problems they face.

“We have increased the visibility of University Police Department patrols on university property south of campus.

“But we can, and will, do more.”

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or Follow him on Twitter: @roywenzl.

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