From annarbor.com comes “EMU community ask for answers following students’ death.” This is coverage of yesterday’s 4 pm safety forum in response to the murder of Julia Niswender. Here’s a passage that I think kind of sums things up:
When he spoke to AnnArbor.com Wednesday afternoon, [Ypsilanti police Detective Sgt. Thomas] Eberts said many questions had to go unanswered because police are protecting their investigation. He wouldn’t say if police found evidence of violence at the apartment when they arrived or what kind of evidence led police to believe a homicide took place.
Students at the meeting at EMU asked [EMU Police Chief Bob] Heighes if police have a suspect in mind, if the person who is believed to have killed Niswender was armed and dangerous. Heighes sounded apologetic as he was unable to answer.
“I don’t have any other details other than what I shared,” he said.
Heighes did pass along safety tips to students, asking them to not wear headphones while walking on campus, walk with a partner, call police if they see something suspicious and to call authorities if they get any unsolicited visitors. Many students expressed concern with the on-campus student escort service that allows students walking around late at night to have someone walking with them for safety.
It’s striking how different this response is compared to immediate reaction to the Laura Dickinson murder, which was almost exactly six years ago. I can understand why it’s frustrating to folks to not know what’s going on with this investigation and/or to be afraid that there’s a killer on the lose. But clearly, EMU is getting out in front of this to reassure and to do their best to comfort the community while at the same time not trying to screw up the investigation. That’s a far cry from flat-out lying to everyone like they did when Dickinson was killed in her dorm room, suggesting that there was “no foul play.”
What’s also obviously different is that this was not on campus and I don’t think there’s much EMU can do about what the apartment complexes around campus do (or don’t) about security or much of anything else. Which has to make me wonder: what sort of response have the folks who Peninsular Place apartments had to this? I haven’t read anything anywhere about this; I wonder if annarbor.com or some other “real news” source has contacted these people to get a statement?
On the one hand, Peninsular Place is just an apartment complex, so I’m not sure they have any more responsibility for security than any other apartment complex. I can’t recall another situation where the landlord was blamed for a crime, and I have no idea what sort of security (or not) exists at Peninsular Place.
On the other hand, this is not a normal apartment complex. I’ve never been in this place, but based on some of the reviews I’ve read and on the floor plans on the web site, these are basically dorm rooms. There are three or four bedroom units where each bedroom has its own entrance and bathroom, and there’s another door (presumably lockable) to a common area with a kitchen. Plus they’re fully furnished. Plus as this page “Information for Parents” makes clear, Peninsular Place markets itself to parents as a place that is a lot like living on campus; for example, from their web site:
Give your student the lifestyle they want – Give yourself peace of mind
For many young adults, a productive college career can be the foundation for lifelong success. There will be no greater contributor to your student’s academic success than the environment in which they live. At an American Campus community, we offer best-in-class accommodations in an environment conducive to academic achievement and well-being.
And so forth. By the way, “American Campus” is a large and publicly traded corporation that has pseudo-dorms like this one all over the country,including Willow Tree apartments in Ann Arbor and complexes in East Lansing and Kalamazoo.
One last thing: there’s a good article in the Echo, “Friends, family in shock after EMU student’s death.” Among other things, there is some information here about a fund set up in Niswender’s name.