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Suspect still in custody

Mary Kate Malone | Monday, September 4, 2006

The Mishawaka man arrested in connection with the alleged Aug. 23 assault of a junior Notre Dame student is being held at the St. Joseph County jail and will likely face formal charges by Tuesday, police said Sunday.

The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s office has 72 hours to dictate and file formal charges against Bruce Smith, 24, said Capt. Phil Trent, South Bend police public information officer. The filing deadline was extended until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend.

Police think Smith is connected to the alleged assault of a female student that occurred at Turtle Creek Apartments Aug. 23. The student, 21, said she was held at knifepoint by a man who gained access to her apartment by posing as a Comcast cable worker.

The student, who transferred to Notre Dame this year from Clemson University, said she was able to pull away from the man’s grasp and was not injured during the incident. When police presented her with a photo line-up of six possible suspects last week, she tried to identify the man who assaulted her, Trent said.

“She didn’t hesitate one iota,” Trent said. “A lot of times it takes quite awhile to study pictures, but she just went right to it and picked him out.”

Smith was asked to come to the South Bend police station after the student identified him. He was questioned by detectives and later arrested.

“He didn’t give an admission, but he sort of talked around the direct question he was being asked,” Trent said, adding that it was “very suspicious” that Smith placed himself at Turtle Creek during the time of the incident.

Smith is currently being held under a booking charge, which is a preliminary charge made by police based on the formal charge expected to come from the county prosecutor. In this case, Smith is being held for criminal confinement, or holding someone against his or her will.

Trent suspects the county prosecutor will charge Smith with criminal confinement initially, but he said more charges might be added as the investigation continues.

“The victim was able to get free before anything else happened,” Trent said, referring to the nature of the charges Smith might face. “We could theoretically add more charges if he would have stated his intentions. … Had it been another 10 seconds we might have a clearer picture of what the individual’s intentions were.”

Once the charges are filed, Smith will go in front of a judge for a bond hearing and if he can post bond – which would be the norm, Trent said – then he will be released on bond until his trial.

The student, who wished to remain anonymous, has been in talks with the University to move onto campus, although she was originally denied housing this fall as a transfer student.