UAS rethinks co-ed housing policy

Male student accused of raping female roommate in student apartment last week

Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2010

The University of Alaska Southeast will change its co-ed student housing policy after a 21-year-old male student allegedly raped his female roommate last weekend.

Dominic Merrill was arrested Thursday and charged with felony sexual assault. He was arraigned Friday and is being held in the Lemon Creek Correctional Center on $25,000 bail.

The alleged assault occurred in the early morning hours of Jan. 23 in a co-ed student apartment on the Auke Bay campus. Students in the co-ed apartments each have their own bedroom but share a bathroom, kitchen and living area.

Vice Chancellor of Student Services Bruce Gifford said the university is aware of the incident and the criminal investigation by police.

"That doesn't stop us from taking action as well," he said. "We are initiating a full investigation that will probably lead to disciplinary proceedings against (Merrill) as well."

Gifford cited confidentiality policies and could not comment further on the university's investigation.

The co-ed housing policy was in place when Gifford began his job, but rooming situations could soon be same-sex only, he said.

"We are going to take a look at that situation," he said. "I have directed the housing operation to end that practice."

Merrill, a student from Arizona, and the victim were invited to a friend's apartment around 9 p.m. on Jan. 22 to play poker and drink, according to court documents. Around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 23, the victim decided to go home but Merrill said he needed help home because he could barely walk.

The victim told police she helped Merrill back to his room in the apartment they shared, and Merril then locked the two of them in his room, blocked the door and proceeded to assault her.

On Jan. 25 a third party called police to report the assault. Police obtained a search warrant during the investigation to record conversations between Merrill and the victim.

"I am sorry for hurting you in every way," Merrill told the victim during a recorded conversation, referring "bites and bruises" he left on the victim. "I wish I could take it all back. I thought about flying home. I thought about locking myself away because I felt like a monster. When I drink a lot I black out. I promise nothing like this will happen again."

Assistant District Attorney Amy Williams told the court Friday that Merrill is charged with an "extremely serious offense" and asked that bail be set at $25,000 because the state believes he could be a flight risk.

Merrill does not have a criminal record in Alaska but he has been convicted of drunken driving three times in Arizona, according to records.

The case will be brought before a grand jury to consider if there is sufficient evidence for a felony indictment.

• Contact reporter Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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