Thursday, December 1, 2011

Officers arrest suspected groper

Prosecutor charges man with rape, assault

By Courtney Donlin, News Editor

Pacific Lutheran University’s female population may feel a little safer after the arrest of a 35-year-old man suspected of groping students near campus.

Officers with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department arrested Spanaway resident Zane Lensie Nixon Nov. 23 at around 6:30 p.m., Pierce County Sheriff’s Department Spokesman Detective Ed Troyer said.

Nixon, who worked as a juvenile detention officer at Remann Hall for 10 years prior to his arrest, was arraigned Monday and charged with one count of Rape 3 and eight counts of Assault 4 with sexual motivation, according to charging documents released Monday by the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office.

Campus Safety Director Greg Premo said Nixon was first approached by two student safety officers near 121st Street by Trinity Lutheran Church. The safety officers saw Nixon’s appearance was similar to the description given by the victims and attempted to have Nixon identify himself. Instead of responding, Nixon ran from the safety officers. The student officers called Campus Safety and Information to report the incident, who then called 911.

“The guy [Nixon] ran around TLC, around the back to where our operations supervisor was,” Premo said. “The guy [Nixon] ran from him, ran back out onto to Garfield and onto C Street.”

Once Nixon reached C Street, another student safety officer in a vehicle followed him until officers with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department arrived.

Pierce County Deputy Jeffrey Reigle found and approached Nixon. After a short period in which Reigle identified Nixon and Nixon’s place of employment, Reigle told the suspect he knew Nixon had been grabbing female students.

“I have been depressed and lonely and I may have grabbed a few girls,” Nixon said.

Nixon was arrested and brought to a Pierce County Sheriff’s Department substation. Nixon was interviewed by Detective Michael Hefty with Reigle in presence, according to the charging documents.

In the interview with Hefty, Nixon “apologized for his actions and was asking/hoping/begging for law enforcement to let him go without pressing charges,” according to the charging documents. When asked what actions he was apologizing for, Nixon said “touching their butts,” but later said he didn’t remember any of the incidents.

Nixon later asked not to be jailed for his actions and said he would like to use this experience as “a wake-up call.”

In the charging documents, Nixon said he is 5’8” and 170 pounds. Nixon said he lives with his two sons, ages three and eight, and had been feeling depressed “over how life has turned out, financial problems, and his divorce that happened two years ago next January.”

Troyer said Nixon had no prior criminal record, which Premo said was surprising.

“It was not the profile that we were thinking the suspect would fit,” Premo said.

Nine female students reported being attacked by a man between 5’6” and 5’8”. The first attack was reported on Oct. 30 and the final attack on Nov. 20. Campus Safety and Information sent alerts to campus via email after the reports were filed. Despite the large number of attacks near campus, Premo said he received no reaction from the PLU community.

“I think the nature of the incidents themselves, although somewhat disturbing, weren’t too alarming to individuals,” Premo said. “There’s still a little bit of human nature of ‘Oh, I’m not the victim, I’m not in that situation.’ I think that’s why these incidents do occur is because they don’t think they’ll be the victim, walking alone at night.”