the death of emu student laura dickinson is now thought to be murder

Remember the young coed found dead in her Eastern Michigan University dorm room right before Christmas? Well, they’re calling it murder. And, an arrest has been made. Here’s a clip from the article that ran in today’s “Ann Arbor News“:

…(P)olice allege, 22-year-old Laura Dickinson was killed by a fellow student who broke into her dormitory room, raped her and then took keys and women’s underwear as he made his escape.

As 20-year-old Orange Amir Taylor III was arraigned Saturday in connection with Dickinson’s death, those who knew her and others in the campus community were grappling with the shocking news that she was violently attacked and slain…

Robert Dickinson (the victim’s father) said he was originally told there was no sign of foul play, so he believed his daughter had died of natural causes.

On Friday, he said, he was told that Taylor became a suspect after police saw him entering and leaving the dormitory on a surveillance camera and then matched his DNA to evidence left at the scene.

Dickinson said investigators also told him they had suspected Laura’s death was not by natural causes, but kept her family in the dark because they feared the suspect would flee…

University Ombudsman Greg Peoples said Taylor had transferred to Eastern and had yet to declare a major. Taylor, on his Facebook page, indicated that he was an education major who would graduate in 2009…

Dickinson was a vegetarian studying to be a dietitian and nutritionist. She worked part time at a Hastings health food store, her parents’ coffeehouse and a jewelry store. She was a member of the EMU rowing team, and a 2002 graduate of Hastings High School, who talked of joining the Peace Corps to help kids in Africa dealing with AIDS.

EMU students are asking questions. For the most part, it seems they want to have an explanation from the EMU administration, and from the police, as to why they weren’t told that a rapist/murderer was loose on campus. Most, it seems, appreciate that investigators may have had good reason not to share information, but, at the same time, they want to know where that line is drawn. At what point does the safety of the living take precedence over an investigation? It’s a valid question.

(update: EMU administrators deny that they withheld information.)

On a related note, it’s hard to imagine that the timing of these events, as terrible as they are, could have been any better for EMU administrators. The student’s death was discovered only after most students had already left for Christmas break, and, now, news that she was in fact murdered, is coming out two days in to spring break. If these events had played out at any other time, there may have been serious repercussions. As it is, however, I doubt there will be much. (Some students will, no doubt drop out, fearful for their safety, and others may choose not to come to EMU in the first place, but I don’t suspect there will be large-scale protests either demanding answers as to why students weren’t better informed, or significant public safety initiatives. Attentionn spans are short, even when it comes to murder.)

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  1. edweird
    Posted February 25, 2007 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    I was just reading the Mlive article. This just gets sadder by the minute. I can understand the investigators not wanting to let too much out about the case, especially if they didn’t want the suspect to flee before they got enough info. From the article I read, EMU’s administration wasn’t getting a lot of info themselves. If this is true, than they have no blame in the disinformation. Students should be aware of their surroundings and their own safety anyway. Does the average suburban spawned college student feel the school should take care of that for them? The campus police can only do so much and common sense is a better savior I think.

  2. mark
    Posted February 25, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, they still aren’t quite sure how the victim died, or at least they aren’t saying. Whatever it was, I don’t think it was readily apparent from the crime scene. Had it been a gunshot, or a stabbing, or something else that was readily apparent to University police, word probably would have gotten out. As it was, however, I get the sense that no one knew for days what happened, and may still not know now. I don’t blame EMU for not saying more, especially, as you point out, because it doesn’t sound as though they were really in the loop. It’s just a terribly odd, terribly sad case… From what I’ve read of the victim, she sounds like an incredible young woman, which makes it all the more depressing.

  3. rogerdodger
    Posted February 26, 2007 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Here is President Fallon’s email to the university. I don’t really see how the university could have handled it any differently. The woman’s parents weren’t even notified until Friday, and campus was notified immediately after. Her parents have said in the past that she’d had an irregular heartbeat, so there really is whole lot still unknown in this case, as far as I am concerned.

    Since last year’s sexual assault, EMU has made a huge effort to increase campus security, hiring more security staff, changing locks, adding cameras, meeting with residence hall students. Maybe they could have issued a press release telling students to be careful, but I’ve had enough of authority telling me to be afraid and suspicious of “something but we’re not sure what”. College students are adults, and should be able to use caution and take care of themselves without blaming the university for unfortunate and tragic occurrences like this.

  4. t.d. glass
    Posted February 27, 2007 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The fact that he took her keys and panties would tend to support that it was rape, but I suspect he’ll say that she died during consensual sex. As her parents have said she had an irregular heartbeat, jurors might buy it, especially if the coronor doesn’t come forward with a more conclusive statement about her death. (It sounds as though he’s still saying that he’s not sure.)

  5. rogerdodger
    Posted February 28, 2007 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    More information from the university here and complete timeline of the university’s actions. Obviously this is reported by EMU, but it seems reasonable to me that this is how events unfolded.

  6. Michael
    Posted July 16, 2007 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    As I Virginia Tech student and employee, I can tell you straight up, these University Administrators are just lazy good for nothings. They can’t think of anything bad happening at their schools, like it’s kindergarten or something. When some thing bad does happen, they just wilt like spinach in hot water. It’s a pathetic state of affairs, University Administrations can no longer be trusted, the military can no longer be trusted, and the government can no longer be trusted to look out for us and our children. Thomas Jefferson would agree a revolution in America is needed once again.

  7. SuperSenior
    Posted November 18, 2008 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    I think this is ridiculous… some of these comments on here are terrible. As a college student in the state of Michigan, I am furious as to how this situation was handled. It is true as a college student you are an adult, but when someone breaks into your house (dorm) and there is a SENSE of foul play, and the university takes no action to let the community or the FAMILY know of their suspicion it is breaking the law. The Cleary Act states that all safety information on campuses in the US has to be informed to the public. As a student who could have been harmed in Hill Hall, I would be concerned, feel betrayed and angry. The University is completely at fault as well as the police department. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Ms. Dickinson, it’s terrible to think they were lied to for 10 weeks. I want to see the REAL timeline of events, rather than the sugarcoated timeline EMU distributed more than 2 months after the event. UNREAL.

  8. modesta
    Posted October 5, 2010 at 2:33 am | Permalink

    Mr. Robert Dickinson and family. Be with a stong during this period I read this and I got a shock becouse I know you and you doughter Laura when you visit Zanzibar with her.
    God rest her in Piece.
    Modesta from Zanzibar.

  9. Jag
    Posted February 29, 2012 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Every time I’m driving down 94, looking at the EMU billboards, it occurs to me that one of the kids featured could int he campaign turn out to be the next Orange Taylor or Laura Dickinson. It’s an awful thought, but I worry about the PR implications for the University. Hopefully it never comes to pass.

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