Students jarred by sexual assault attempt

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Some West Campus residents said they are taking extra precautions when walking home at night after felony charges were filed Monday against a man in the case of an attempted sexual assault perpetrated against a UT student between 2 and 3 a.m. on Nov. 1 as she left her sorority house, according to an arrest affidavit.

Joseph Edward Barkley, 23, remained in Travis County Jail on Tuesday for both the attempted sexual assault and felony charges in the case of an aggravated robbery that occurred on Nov. 8 and left Barkley with stab wounds, the affidavit said.

Finance junior Tianne Yarbrough said she had heard of a few sexual assaults in the area before and made a point to take precautions when walking home in West Campus.

“I’ll probably make sure somebody’s with me now,” said biology sophomore Hannah Marvin. “I’ve walked around here alone at all hours of the night before and I felt OK, though.”

The victim said after leaving her sorority house the assailant grabbed her neck and pushed her onto the ground of a lawn in front of an apartment complex nearby before straddling and strangling her, the affidavit alleges.

The assailant told the student, “This is my first time doing this,” before pulling out a condom, according to the affidavit.

The assailant let the victim up and walked her behind a dumpster on Salado Street after two witnesses walked past the scene of the assault, according to the affidavit.

Geosciences sophomore Julie Zurbuchen said she can understand why someone may have walked by and not realized a sexual assault was happening.

“Most of the time it’s a bunch of drunk people at night, so if you saw that, at first glance you might assume that’s what was going on,” Zurbuchen said.

The victim managed to get away after running toward two people walking nearby and screaming for help, according to the affidavit.

Barkley was arrested after Austin Police Department officers interrogated him when he arrived at University Medical Center Brackenridge with wounds inconsistent with an animal bite, despite claiming to have been attacked by dogs, according to the affidavit. Police took Barkley into custody because he matched a description of a man who had attempt to commit aggravated robbery of a woman on Nov. 8 before a witness stabbed the assailant, the affidavit said.

Barkley confessed to officers on Nov. 11 that he had gotten drunk and “jumped a girl” earlier in the week before she ran away, the affidavit said.

Within eight days of the Nov. 1 sexual assault, two similar crimes occurred within a half-mile radius of the attack.

A sexual assault was reported Nov. 9 on Leon Street, and a rape was reported on West 28th Street on Nov. 8, according to Austin’s public police records. Police have not commented on whether the incidents are related, however, one former assault victim said people should be more conscious of crime in the area.

A history senior, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Daily Texan she was attacked two years ago in front of the Jefferson 26 apartments at 7:30 p.m. while she was on her way to visit her boyfriend.

“Some guy, like, watched me and looked right at me and said nothing while it happened,” the victim said.

While she was able to get away from the man who assaulted her, she said she now takes precautions when walking in West Campus in fear he may some day return.

“They don’t know why he targeted me,” she said. “They haven’t found him. They never did.” 

Printed on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 as: Sexual assault attempt alarms students.