Update: Documents identify 16-year-old Lee University rape suspect

A suspect is in custody after authorities say a student at Lee University was sexually assaulted Sunday. (Image: WTVC)

UPDATE (Thursday):

Documents released to NewsChannel 9 by Bradley County Juvenile Court reveal new details about the incident, including the 16-year-old suspect's identity: Memphis Smith.

The documents say the victim told police that her assailant reached around her while she was seated in the ceramics room and put a knife to her neck. She asked what he wanted, and he replied 'sex.'

The report says the victim struggled with her attacker, trying to take the knife out of his hand, but was unable to do so.

The report says officers recovered two knives at the crime scene: one a silver exacto knife, and the other a brown, Outdoor Edge brand foldable knife with the tip broken off.

The report continues that officers spoke with Smith's parents, who told them he had not been home the entire day, and was considered a runaway. Officers later took him into custody.

NewsChannel 9 asked District Attorney Steven Crump whether Smith would be tried as an adult. He replied, “We are evaluating the law contained in the transfer statute to determine whether a transfer is authorized. Clearly, a crime of this severity is one that I believe should result in the offender being treated as an adult. An adult crime deserves an adult response by the criminal justice system where possible.”

Depend on us to keep you posted on this developing story.


Cleveland Police have arrested a 17-year-old who they say sexually assaulted a Lee University student Sunday afternoon.

He has been charged with aggravated rape in the incident.

Police are not releasing his name because he is a minor.

On Monday evening, Lee University president Paul Conn sent an email to students, faculty, and staff that described the suspect.

The message says, "The man who committed this assault has not been caught. The following description has been issued by the Cleveland Police Department: ”male, perhaps in his mid-20’s, African-American, about 5’4” and 140 pounds, with short hair with bleached tips.” We are sharing this description in the interest of helping students and staff/faculty be more vigilant, and in hope that we can assist the police in finding the assailant."

The message continues, "Lee’s campus security is not an armed police force; however, we have an excellent relationship with the Cleveland Police Department and are now working with them to explore ways to make our campus a safer place for everyone. The fact that the police headquarters is only a few blocks away is helpful, and perhaps one reason our crime rate has been one of the lowest of any campus in the state. We believe there are additional steps we can take to improve security, and Dr. Mike Hayes and other administrators are working to develop an action plan."

The message concludes, "I appreciate the response of the Residential Life and Housing staff to yesterday’s very troubling event. It reminds us that even small Christian campuses are not immune to the tragedy of sexual assault, and we have an obligation to do everything we can to guarantee that no Lee student should live with the fear or threat of being victimized. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts, suggestions, and reactions to the Res Life staff, and to me and Dr. Hayes, as we work together on this concern."

“The idea that someone can come into your place and your territory and do that is really scary," said a senior at Lee University, who did not want to share her name for safety purposes. "I'm noticing that people are using the buddy system around campus and everyone looking out for their friends a little bit more."

Cleveland Police spokeswoman Sgt. Evie West said that the student suffered minor injuries after a "struggle."

West added that the victim did not know her attacker.

Cleveland Police said they believe the victim is now out of the hospital, as of Tuesday.

This is a developing story - depend on us to bring you updates as we get them.

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