UF security tightens after homicide


University Police investigator Ernest Hale talks on the phone as police stand in front of Maguire Village building 382 where an unidentified male was found dead.

LEE FERINDEN/Special to The Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 12:36 a.m.
As college students returned from their holiday break, officials boosted security around a campus apartment complex Monday where University of Florida Police were investigating the university's first homicide in years.
Officers responding to friends' concerns about a resident at Maguire Village, a graduate student and family housing complex off SW 34th Street, found the body of a man Sunday afternoon. Police discovered the man in the back bedroom of the first-floor apartment in building 382.
Investigators were awaiting confirmation of the man's identity from the Medical Examiner's Office, UF Police Lt. Joe Sharkey said Monday. A cause of death had not been released, although police have said the case is obviously a murder. Police said it was the first homicide on campus in more than 25 years.
Police did say that, since the investigation began, they have not made contact with the apartment's resident, whom friends were looking for and who lived alone.
The man is described as being in his early 20s and of Indian descent, University of Florida Police Chief Linda Stump said. The body, she also said, could have been in the home for more than a day before it was discovered.
There were no signs of a forced entry into the apartment, police said.
Asked if police believe the man knew his attacker, Stump said, "I think it's premature to give any kind of information at this point. I think what we can do is remind students and everybody about normal safety procedures."
That, she said, would include locking doors and getting locks changed if keys have been lost.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office and Gainesville Police Department are assisting University Police, Sharkey said. Detectives from both agencies canvassed the complex, questioning residents Sunday and Monday.
The apartments, with a parking lot ringed with children-at-play signs, was quiet Monday afternoon. Looking out of place among porches piled with toys, patio furniture and plants were rows of yellow police tape blocking off some sections of the complex, including a garbage bin. Several University Police Department officers dug through another garbage bin on the other side of the complex. A covering had been placed over the window of the apartment where the body was discovered.
Sharon Blansett, assistant director of housing, said information sessions would be held Monday evening with complex residents. Both police and counselors would be at the meetings.
Housing security and police patrols also will be boosted in the area, Blansett and Stump said.
Before the homicide, there was one security assistant overseeing Maguire Village and the nearby University Village South and Lakeside Residential Complex.
"They're going to increase that until the investigation is complete and we have a better idea of what may or may not have happened," Blansett said.
New UF President Bernie Machen said he had been phoned Sunday evening about the investigation but didn't offer reporters at a news conference Monday any additional information about the case.
"You know more than I do," he said. A statement released late Monday from Mike Rollo, vice president for student affairs, said, "We share the concerns of students and their families regarding the police investigation being conducted at Maguire Village. Please rest assured that student safety remains the university's Number 1 priority."
Blansett said the housing office had not received calls Monday from students or their families concerned about the case.
While they wanted the case solved, neither residents at Maguire Village nor other students around campus seemed worried about their safety or the investigation.
"I think it is safe," said Qin Dong, 30, who has lived at Maguire Village for three years. "We do feel very safe when we walk around at night."
UF students, back on campus Monday following the holiday break, said they weren't sure fellow students were aware of the investigation. Classes at the university resume today.
Sophomores David Salmon and Jordan Rubinstein, both 20, said they knew about the case only after catching a late night TV news report Sunday.
But freshman Brett Rampal, 18, said, "Basically, if you ask me, nobody knows."
None of the three were worried about safety at U, in contrast to the fear that blanketed the campus and community after the 1990 student murders. Danny Rolling later pleaded guilty to murdering five college students at the start of the fall semester 13 years ago.
"It's just an unfortunate thing that happened," Salmon said about the current case. "I'm not worried about walking around campus at night."
Rampal said, "Anything can happen here that can happen in a city."
Salmon noted that police said there was no forced entry of the apartment.
Rampal said, "That makes me feel like it must be someone known to the victim."
Sun staff writer Janine Young Sikes contributed to this report. Lise Fisher can be reached at 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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