Baton Rouge police said Monday they are searching for a man who a woman says raped her at knife point early Saturday just south of LSU’s campus.
But police waited more than 48 hours to let the public know there was a rapist on the loose, releasing no information about the attack until Monday afternoon.
The 25-year-old victim told investigators she was smoking a cigarette outside her home between 2:15 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Saturday when a man armed with a knife forcibly raped her and fled, Lt. Don Kelly said in a news release.
Kelly declined to release a specific location of the rape, saying it happened in a residential area bordered by LSU’s campus to the north, Nicholson Drive to the west, Burbank Drive to the east and West Lee Drive to the south.
“Everyone in and around that area should be on the lookout for the suspect and be cautious,” Kelly said.
The victim described her attacker as a white male in his mid-20s with dark blonde or light brown hair, Kelly said. He is about 5 feet 7 inches tall with an average build.
Kelly said he did not know if the victim was an LSU student.
When asked about the delay in releasing details about the incident, Kelly said detectives needed time to conduct their investigation over the weekend.
Kelly said he verified the facts of the case when he was able to meet with the detectives Monday.
“It would have been irresponsible to release information before an investigation took place,” Kelly said. “We wanted to warn the public in the area once we were able to verify the information.”
Metro Councilman John Delgado, whose council district includes the area where the rape occurred, said he is satisfied with the timeliness of the Police Department’s release of information about the case.
Delgado said it’s fair to question how quickly the department issues details about any crime but that verification procedures need to be followed, as they were in this case.
“If every single crime that was reported immediately triggers a press release, then you’re going to have a lot of things to report and a very worried public,” Delgado said.
Delgado added, “I’m gratified that the information is out there, and hopefully the public is alert to the situation.”
C. Denise Marcelle, another Metro Council member, expressed greater concern about the delay. She said the public has a right to know about alleged attackers when they’re still on the loose.
Marcelle said it’s “crucial” to release information about crime as soon as possible, “especially in instances like that.”
“If you’ve got a rapist out there, people need to know it as soon as possible so that there won’t be other victims,” she said. “At least they would be on alert.”
Racheal Hebert, executive director of the Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center in Baton Rouge, said she could not speak to the delay in the release of information by police.
However, she said, rape victims are often traumatized and cannot always immediately recount all of the details of their attacks.
“Police may not have had all of the details of the assault to compile an accurate and detailed report of the crime to alert the public,” Hebert said. “We at STAR work closely with law enforcement to ensure that there is an immediate response to victims of all sexual assaults in the Greater Baton Rouge area.”
Judy Benitez, executive director of the Iris Domestic Violence Center in Baton Rouge, said that as a general rule, the public should be informed immediately about attacks such as the one early Saturday.
“It (the delay) might have been a function of it being the weekend,” Benitez said. “If people need to take precautions, then they have a right to know that.”
Benitez, though, said she understood the decision by police to be vague about the location of the incident to protect the victim’s privacy.
“Often, when people are reluctant to report, it’s because they don’t want the world in general to know about it,” Benitez said.
Darlene Santana, executive director of the Metropolitan Center for Women and Children, which offers assistance to domestic violence victims in the Greater New Orleans area, said the delay in police releasing information about the rape concerns her.
She said people are more mindful of their surroundings when they hear about violent crime in their neighborhood.
“It (the delay) doesn’t allow you that time to prepare yourself for you to be more aware of your surroundings, as you would be had you known somebody like that is running around your neighborhood,” she said.
Anyone with information on this rape is asked to contact police at (225) 389-3853 or Crime Stoppers at (225) 344-7867.