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ND student assaulted, left 7 miles from campus

Chris Hine | Monday, April 28, 2008

A Notre Dame student suffered a concussion and a broken right hand on April 20 after he was allegedly assaulted, robbed and left approximately seven miles from campus, St. Joseph county police said Saturday.

Sophomore Timothy Clarke, 20, said he left Tailgaters Sports Bar around 3 a.m. and got into a car with either two or three men near Nick’s Patio on Ironwood Drive early in the morning on April 20.

Clarke, a resident of Keough Hall, said he thought the men would give him a ride back to campus. The men, whose identities are unknown, allegedly assaulted him, took Clarke’s wallet and cell phone, and left him on the side of Primrose Road about seven miles from campus, St. Joseph County Police Detective Phil Williams said.

A 911 call was placed to county police by a passer-by, who saw Clarke lying unconscious. Police responded to the call and found Clarke at approximately 6:45 a.m. and took him to Memorial Hospital in South Bend. Clarke is currently staying in University Health Services.

Williams said the identities of the suspects are unknown and he and Clarke said they did not know why the assault and robbery occurred.

Clarke said Sunday he could not remember if he voluntarily got into the car or was forced into the car, but Williams said he would not likely charge the men with kidnapping or abduction if he finds them.

Clarke’s account of what happened may not be 100 percent accurate, Williams said, because of memory loss Clarke suffered from his concussion and other head injuries, and also possibly from alcohol he consumed that night. But Williams said that with time, Clarke is regaining recollection of what happened that night.

Clarke spent most of last week in University Health Services before having surgery on his hand Thursday. After surgery, he was returned to Health Services where he will recover for the next few days, but doctors may need to perform a second surgery on his hand. Clarke also sustained other lacerations and bruises on his head, chest, and elbow.

Clarke said he tried to phone a friend, who was serving as a designated driver, to pick him up from Tailgaters on Ironwood Drive at approximately 3 a.m. The driver was picking up other people at the time and told Clarke to wait at Tailgaters until he arrived to take Clarke back to campus, Clarke said.

But Clarke said he declined the ride and thinks he saw students he knew walking north on Ironwood toward Nick’s Patio alone.

“I figured I’d go there and wait for a cab,” Clarke said.

Clarke walked north along Ironwood Drive and said he thought he was near Nick’s Patio when the car approached him.

Clarke does not clearly remember what happened next except that he thought these men would give him a ride back to campus. He got in the backseat and two men were in the front. A third man may have also been in the car, Clarke said. Williams said Clarke could not provide a description of the car.

While in the car, Clarke said he realized he was in the car too long to be going back campus. He said he tried to call at least six people on his cell phone in the car between 3:40 and 3:45 a.m., but nobody answered.

Clarke said he was not sure if he was attacked in the car. The men may have hit him as he was trying to call people on his phone, he said.

Clarke claimed his wallet and his phone were stolen by the men.

Clarke had credit cards and identification in his wallet, but had no cash. He said nobody has tried to use the credit cards since the incident.

Associate Vice President for Residence Life Bill Kirk said it is typically University policy not to publicize off-campus crime involving students. The University does release information regarding on-campus crime usually in the form of e-mail alerts, but Kirk said in an e-mail to The Observer that the University “usually doesn’t have the authority to release the details of crimes that occur outside the limited jurisdiction of the Notre Dame Security/Police Department (NDSP),” Kirk said.

But the University does make exceptions in certain cases.

“Very simply, if the University believed that our students would be safer, better prepared, or better able to prevent becoming the victim of a crime by publicizing information about the occurrence of any off-campus crime, we would certainly do so,” Kirk said.

As of Sunday evening, Kirk did not respond to a subsequent Observer e-mail asking why the University chose not to publicize the event involving Clarke.

Williams said the men who committed the crime were likely residents of St. Joseph County because Primrose Road is a dirt road in a wooded area that is hard to find for people unfamiliar with the area.

St. Joseph County Sheriff Frank Canarecci said juvenile crime is common near the spot where police found Clarke.

“It’s often the place where juveniles would go and drink,” Canarecci said. “It’s a road that’s lightly traveled and it’s close enough to the city but remote enough where you can do things that you shouldn’t be doing.”

Williams described the location as a “swamp area” that had no buildings or homes around it.

“Where he was found, he could’ve been screaming and nobody would’ve heard him,” Williams said.

Williams said he reviewed video surveillance tapes from Tailgaters to track Clarke’s movements throughout the night. From what he could tell, Clarke did not seem overly inebriated.

“I didn’t observe him drinking a lot of alcohol,” Williams said. “I wouldn’t say he was completely intoxicated. He walked out pretty much like you or I would if he had one or two drinks.”

Williams said he spoke with Clarke after the incident on April 20, but did not speak with him again until Friday. Williams did not want to bother Clarke, because of Clarke’s condition, until he had more information.

“Since he had very little information at first, I wanted to review the video before I talked to him again.”

Williams said he could not obtain the video from Tailgaters until Friday.

According to the county police log, Clarke was only able to give police limited identification. Canarecci, who has been sheriff for six years, said this case is unique.

“That I’m aware of, it’s the first such abduction and assault of a Notre Dame student,” Canarecci said. “There have been thefts, there have been assaults but to actually pick someone up and beat him, I can’t recall that in many, many years.”

Canarecci also said he hopes this type of crime doesn’t become a frequent problem and urged students to use caution when getting rides back to campus.

“The fortunate thing was he wasn’t hurt worse than he was,” Canarecci said. “I hope this doesn’t become more of a commonplace thing. I hope it’s just an isolated incident.”

NDSP director Phil Johnson contacted Canarecci Friday about the case and offered any assistance he could give, Canarecci said. NDSP Sgt. Dave Dosmann is now assisting Williams in the investigation.

Canarecci said he did not know if Tailgaters would be fined for serving to an underage person, because that would depend on what type of identification Clarke presented to the bar.

Anyone with information about the incident should call St. Joseph County Police.

Katie Kohler contributed to this report.

Contact Chris Hine at [email protected]