It sounded awful, but the alleged rape and beating of a 21-year-old woman walking in a secluded part of the University of California, Santa Cruz last Sunday was a hoax, police said on Thursday.
The matter now will be forwarded to the District Attorney for possible prosecution, said UCSC Police Chief Nader Oweis.
Oweis said it is important for the campus and Santa Cruz communities to know that the sexual assault did not take place. "The report of this incident has very understandably created a deep sense of unease among UCSC students, staff, and faculty, as well as residents of the Santa Cruz area," he said.
The woman said she was was alone on a path in a wooded area between the Upper Quarry Amphitheater and the Classroom Unit building at about 12:25 p.m. when a man attacked her, campus spokesman Jim Burns said.
Her tale was elaborate: That a stranger battered and raped her and then ran south toward Steinhart Way between Quarry Plaza and McHenry Library, Burns said. "What's unusual about this is it occurred in the daylight and in this case the victim did not know the assailant," Burns said.
The area of the attack, in the core of the campus, was "in a somewhat remote area" that is mostly undeveloped, Burns said.
She was also very specific about her attacker, including the shape of his face, the color of his eyes, a tattoo on his shoulder and his voice. She said he spoke with a deep growl-sounding voice and smelled of cigarettes.
Oweis said that several campus safety measures that were put into place following the report of the alleged attack — increased police and security patrols; a nighttime safety escort service on campus — would continue for the time being. "The Santa Cruz community has seen a spike in violent crime in recent weeks. Keeping these measures in place is the right thing to do."
As UCSC police now know that the sexual assault did not occur, the campus has rescinded the $5,000 reward it had offered last week for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the alleged assailant.