Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Family Calls Suicide Ruling Hasty

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Family Calls Suicide Ruling Hasty

Article excerpt

Lawyers for the family of a William Paterson University student who was found hanged in a dormitory bathroom last year after reporting that she had been raped said Thursday that the school had "rushed to judgment" in ruling her death a suicide.

"We believe it was not a suicide," said Peter Till, an attorney representing Cherelle Jovanna Locklear's mother, Marquesa Jackson- Locklear. "We're not suggesting it was a homicide," he later clarified. "One of the possibilities is accidental death."

In a lawsuit filed last week, attorneys representing the Locklears said the school failed to properly investigate her allegation that she was raped at a fraternity house on the university's Wayne campus in September 2015. No charges were ever filed in the case.

The lawyers went further at a news conference in Roseland on Thursday, saying the school's counseling services were lacking and that the university police were too hasty in labeling Locklear's death in November 2015 a suicide.

Locklear, a math major who was in her junior year, was 21 when she was found dead in a bathroom in the Pioneer Hall dormitory on Nov. 22.

Officials at William Paterson said they could not comment specifically on the lawsuit but did "deny the accuracy of many of the statements reported in the media."

"We encourage our students to report allegations of sexual assault and we follow all federal and state laws and guidelines for reporting and investigating allegations of sexual assault," Miki Cammarata, the university's vice president for student development, said in an email to students and faculty Wednesday night, after the story first appeared in the news.

The school also faces lawsuits stemming from the arrests of five students in connection with an alleged rape in 2014. The men were never indicted and have sued William Paterson, claiming false arrest, among other things. …

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