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Prosecutor issues statement on Seeberg

Observer Staff Report | Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office released a report Monday confirming that their office received a report from Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) regarding the investigation into a Saint Mary’s student’s death.

First year Elizabeth “Lizzy” Seeberg died in an apparent suicide Sept. 10. She was 19.

Seeberg had previously filed an allegation with NDSP claiming a Notre Dame student had sexually assaulted her. The alleged sexual assault took place Aug. 31, the release stated.

After NDSP received the report of the sexual assault, it began an investigation.

The Chicago Tribune published a story Sunday that said the University failed to inform the St. Joseph County Police and the county’s special victims unit (SVU), which handles sex offenses, about the alleged assault.

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak refuted this in Monday’s release.

He said NDSP contacted the county’s SVU to advise them of the pending investigation.

“[NDSP] has kept staff members of the SVU informed throughout the investigation,” he said.

SVU is an investigative unit comprised of detectives from the South Bend, St. Joseph County and Mishawaka police departments. It investigates cases of alleged sexual battery and assault, domestic violence and child victimization. It is under the jurisdiction of the Prosecutor’s Office.

NDSP, a fully authorized, independent law enforcement agency, finished its investigation of the alleged assault and forwarded it to the Prosecutor’s office Wednesday. The Prosecutor’s Office is now reviewing it and will make a statement after the review is completed.

That statement will address “the next step in the process: the filing of charges, the decision not to file charges or a request for additional investigation of the allegations,” the release stated.

University spokesman Dennis Brown said the University cannot comment on the specifics of any student disciplinary case due to federal law. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student records, according to the Department of Education’s website.

“It’s not a matter of refusal, it’s a matter of compliance with the federal law,” Brown said.

Dvorak addressed the sensitive and complex nature of such allegations in his statement.

“I wish to emphasize that cases involving such allegations are complex and it would be inappropriate to rush to conclusions, rather than allowing the thorough review by prosecutors to occur in this matter,” he said.