N.J. College Student Commits Suicide After School Botched Rape Investigation, Suit Claims


Cherelle Jovanna Locklear. (Facebook)

(NJ.COM) A mother has filed a lawsuit against William Paterson University, claiming her daughter committed suicide after officials at the school failed to fully investigate the student’s claims of rape.

Cherelle Jovanna Locklear, 21, was found by her roommates hanging by a necktie in a dorm bathroom on Nov. 22, 2015, according to a lawsuit filed Sept. 8 in U.S. District Court by her mother, Marquesa C. Jackson-Locklear.

Originally from Jackson, Locklear had been a student at the school since 2012, the suit states.

She had been raped at the William Paterson University Sigma Pi Fraternity house on or about Sept. 25, 2015 but did not report the assault right away, Locklear’s mother said in court papers.

On or about Oct. 15, 2015, Locklear tried to kill herself by overdosing on pills, the lawsuit states. The suicide attempt led to a five-day hospitalization, her mother said.

After she was released, Locklear went to Theresa A. Bivaletz, who is coordinator of William Paterson’s Victim Services, according to the suit.

“Cherelle described the circumstances of the rape and identified the perpetrator and directed Bivaletz to report the rape to the university police department,” the suit states.

The lawsuit states Bivaletz did not report the rape to campus police until November 2015.

“Even after receiving the report of the sexual assault, the university police department utterly failed to perform an appropriate and thorough investigation,” the lawsuit states.

 As a result, the suspect was neither “confronted nor charged,” according to the suit.The lawsuit alleges that Bivaletz and campus police detectives Ellen DeSimone and Michael John Arp were aware of the sex assault and Locklear’s suicide attempt “and collectively failed to act as required by law to investigate the assault and protect Cherelle’s safety.”

University spokeswoman Mary Beth Zeman released this statement Tuesday afternoon:

“We are, of course, saddened by the loss of a student under any circumstances, and particularly when the loss comes about by suicide. We are aware of the lawsuit filed by the student’s mother and are unable to comment on any such legal matters. The university will continue to focus on the safety and well-being of all of its members and offers a variety of counseling resources for students who seek help with personal challenges.”

More on the story at NJ.com