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Police urge caution after sexual assault near MU

Jan. 23, 2013 @ 11:10 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Two robberies and a reported sexual assault near Marshall University have authorities telling students and faculty to be on alert.

The three incidents happened within four days. Each occurred in an area near 20th Street south of 5th Avenue. Police quickly arrested three men in connection with the robberies, however the assault case remained under investigation late afternoon Wednesday.

The attack happened about 10:30 p.m. Monday in the 500 block of 20th Street. The 22-year-old victim, a Marshall student, told police she was sexually assaulted by a stranger, according to an incident report filed by the Huntington Police Department.

The police report classified the incident as a case of sexual abuse. It provided very little in the way of additional information, and detectives working the case provided no further comment Wednesday.

Marshall Police Chief James Terry said the woman was walking to her vehicle, which was parked at a business in the 500 block of 20th Street. That's within a block of campus.

Terry, who referred questions about the investigations to city police, said the three incidents should serve as a reminder for students and faculty to watch their surroundings, particularly when stepping off campus.

It might sound routine, but Terry said such reminders are important with a group of students who might be otherwise focused on their education. He said students can become sidetracked texting, talking on cell phones or thinking about getting to their destination.

"You're focused on so much stuff, sometimes you don't think of your personal safety because things rarely occur," he said. "Marshall is a relatively safe place, Huntington is a safe town, but you still have to be aware because things are going to happen."

That was the spirit of an electronic alert Terry sent students Tuesday evening. It then was published in The Parthenon, the university's student publication.

The robberies happened Friday and Saturday. City police quickly arrested three people in connection with the Saturday incident, according to earlier comments by Huntington Police Lt. John Williams. He said evidence recovered in those arrests could help police solve the Friday robbery.

Terry's alert told students that both his department and city police have increased patrols in the area.

Any faculty, staff or student who would like an escort to his or her vehicle can call 304-696-HELP. That 24-hour, seven-day-a-week service has been provided for some time.

Follow Curtis Johnson via Twitter @curtisjohnsonHD and http://facebook.com/curtisjohnsonHD