Iowa City sexual assault arrests follow string of University of Iowa reports

Second man connected to most recent assault report

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Days after authorities used DNA evidence to arrest a University of Iowa student on suspicion of attacking and sexually assaulting a woman nearly a year ago, a second man is facing charges in the case.

Ryan Lee Markley, 26, of North Liberty, was booked into the Johnson County Jail on Monday on suspicion of second-degree sexual abuse after his co-defendant, Joshua Venckus, 23, of Iowa City, was arrested Friday on suspicion of the felony charge, which is punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Iowa City police began investigating the case Feb. 16, 2013, after being called to a Van Buren Street address about a woman who reported being attacked and sexually assaulted, requiring “immediate medical attention,” according to a criminal complaint. Investigators pursued the case in the months that followed and – through the analysis of forensic evidence – recently found reason to suspect that both Venckus and Markley participated in the attack, police reported.

Initially, Venckus told police that he wasn’t in Iowa City at the time of the attack, and Markley also did not admit to being involved.

But DNA shows Venckus was “not only present but participated in this attack and left the victim with multiple injuries requiring immediate medical attention,” according to the complaint. And Markley was arrested after his DNA matched a profile developed from the crime scene, police reported.

Venckus is listed in the UI directory as a staff member and student. Their arrests come on the heels of a string of sexual assault reports on or near the UI campus since November. Three of the four most recent sexual assault reports have occurred in the UI residence halls, according to authorities.

On Nov. 3, UI Housing and Dining staff reported receiving information that a UI student had been sexually assaulted in a residence hall room by an acquaintance late Nov. 2 into early Nov. 3, according to UI authorities.

University officials said they knew the identities of both people involved in that case, and they pursued action according to university policy. But the alleged victim asked police not to pursue a criminal investigation, and officers respected that request.

UI Housing and Dining staff on Nov. 17 again received a report that a student had been sexually assaulted, but this time it reportedly occurred at an off-campus fraternity house. The student said she met her attacker – an acquaintance – downtown on Nov. 9 after meeting him for the first time before attending the UI.

Instead of going home, according to police, they went to an off-campus fraternity house, where the victim said she was sexually assaulted. The woman in that case also decided not to pursue criminal charges.

On Dec. 21, UI police received a report about a student being sexually assaulted in a residence hall the previous night. The student in that case reported meeting the suspect through a friend, and police are investigating.

The most recent report came Saturday morning, when a UI student reported being sexually assaulted by an acquaintance at a residence hall. UI police are investigating that case as well.

According to the UI Department of Public Safety, 20 percent of women and 6 percent of men nationally experience sexual assault or attempted sexual assault during their college years. Most often, sexual assault is committed by someone known to the victim, like a date or an acquaintance, according to the department.

There are other risk factors associated with sexual assault, like drug and alcohol use. But UI officials stress that “being at risk in no way shifts responsibility for sexual assault to a victim or survivor.”

Victims are advised to seek medical attention, even without obvious physical injuries. And, if someone chooses to pursue criminal charges, UI police will investigate and offer support and related services. There are free and confidential resources available to victims through both the criminal and university disciplinary processes.

“Sex offenses are treated with seriousness on our campus,” according to UI officials.

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