Man accused of recording women in shower at University of Iowa dorm

Police say suspect is not UI student; also facing Coralville charges

  • Photo

IOWA CITY — More than 24 hours after a man was seen videotaping a female student showering in Burge Hall, University of Iowa police early Wednesday arrested 23-year-old Robert L. Hightower on suspicion of seven charges.

Hightower, who is not a student or affiliated with the university in any way, faces charges of invasion of privacy, third-degree burglary, assault on persons in certain occupations, criminal trespass, simple assault, interference with official acts, and third-degree harassment, according to the UI Department of Public Safety.

UI officials told The Gazette that Hightower gained access to the secure student-living portions of the dorm sometime between Sunday and Monday by entering as a guest of a resident. Hightower told investigators he walked the halls until he found a door that was cracked and, not seeing anyone inside, walked in and found a card wallet and a key ring, according to police.

Hightower found a key for the women’s restroom on the ring and took it, police said. At some point Monday evening, Hightower said he returned to Burge and entered a fifth-floor restroom about 9 p.m., according to police.

He admitted to recording at least one woman showering, and he showed investigators video clips — including one that showed a woman showering. A second video showed a woman drying off. Police said the woman’s naked body was visible in each video.

The second clip ends with the woman catching Hightower in the act and yelling at him, police said. Hightower admitted to going barefoot into the shower area because he didn’t want to get his shoes wet, and the victim confirmed for police the suspect who recorded her was barefoot, according to the criminal complaint.

An officer responded to a complaint about the shower incident at 10:24 a.m. and, while at Burge, the officer received information about suspicious activity in another Burge restroom. The officer responded and found Hightower hiding in a stall, according to police.

Hightower is accused of rushing the officer and pushing past him, escaping after kicking and struggling with the officer, police said. UI police said they located Hightower Tuesday night and booked him in the Johnson County Jail early Wednesday, but it’s not clear how officers found him.

UI police wouldn’t discuss details of their investigation, as it is ongoing, including whether they seized computers, phones, or other electronic devices. They also wouldn’t say whether Hightower might have been on campus or involved in other criminal acts in the past.

UI Public Safety Director Dave Visin stressed, “There were no lapses in the physical security or security policies that caused the issue.”

“The reason access was gained to the building and the affected areas was beyond the university’s control,” he said.

Third-degree burglary is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Assault on persons in certain occupations and invasion of privacy are both serious misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in jail. Criminal trespass, simple assault, interference with official acts and third-degree harassment are all simple misdemeanors punishable by up to 30 days in jail.

Hightower also faces two charges from Coralville police for an incident alleged to have occurred in December. An officer was called to Target on Dec. 3 after Hightower was spotted taking cellphone photos of a woman in a dressing room without her permission. He also was banned from entering the store until November 2016 due to a prior shoplifting charge. He faces charges of trespass and peeping in that case.

Give us feedback

Have you found an error or omission in our reporting? Tell us here.
Do you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.