By Brooke Manuel, Skyline Desk Chief
ALPINE – A Brewster County Grand Jury could meet as early as this week to consider felony sexual assault and burglary charges against a Sul Ross State University student who allegedly entered three women’s and one men’s dormitory rooms in the pre-dawn darkness, fondled one of the occupants and stole several items, officials said.
The alleged perpetrator, a senior and former member of the SRSU men’s soccer team, has been suspended from school and left Alpine, officials, speaking under conditions of anonymity since the case is under investigation, told the Skyline. If the Grand Jury charges the alleged assailant, they said, he must return for trial. He could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and be required to register as a sex offender.
Officials are confident that the Grand Jury will bring charges since the alleged perpetrator was filmed on hallway cameras at 4 a.m. on Sept. 15 checking names on dormitory doors, bypassing men’s rooms and entering those with what he believed were women’s names.
A male student, whose name could be perceived as that of a female, dormitory room was also entered, according to Maria Ester Campos Garcia, one of the victims.
The fondling incident, in which the woman claimed he reached twice under her bedclothes, was not captured by closed circuit cameras, since there are none in the students’ rooms. This could reduce that aspect of the case to a “he said, she said,” according to officials. However, the officials said, the alleged assailant texted the woman the next morning to apologize, which seems to indicate culpability.
The perpetrator is also alleged to have stolen several items, including food, which constitutes burglary, they said.
Two of the victims, Aaliyah Leal and Maria Ester Campos Garcia, chronicled the details of what happened in the early morning hours of Sept. 15.
Leal was awoken by the sound of her bedroom door being opened. Her immediate thought was “Is this a ghost?” She then got up to see who was opening her bedroom door, at which time the perpetrator ran out of the premises.
Garcia, on the other hand, had a firsthand encounter with the perpetrator. At about 4:20 a.m., she heard her door being opened, turned over in bed and saw a guy looking into her room. According to Garcia, she ran out of her room to try to get a good look at person and to possibly get their name. She caught the guy before he was able to leave her dorm room and had a short conversation with him in which he even gave her his name, according to Garcia. Garcia also got a picture of the perpetrator while he was in her dormitory.
Dominic Leal, the father of victim Aaliyah Leal, has been speaking out about the incident via social media and was even featured on ABC Big 2 News – KMID along with his daughter, Aaliyah Leal.
“I believe this is a step in the right direction in making sure all of our student’s are protected, especially women, on and off campus in Alpine, Texas. The announcement of charges is a start to bringing credibility back to Sul Ross State. I commend Sul Ross State University for taking this necessary action. Hopefully better transparency is considered when cases of this nature occurs on campus. Our students deserve that,” said Leal.