When juniors Kelly Cripe and Mara Hancock walked into their home after an improv show on Chapman’s campus Oct. 4, the first thing they saw was pairs of women’s underwear strewn across the floor. One of their roommates’ laptop was missing. In their kitchen, a window screen had been removed. A milk carton sat on the kitchen counter and several cookies had been eaten. The women decided to call the police.
Cripe and Hancock’s roommate found her missing laptop on another roommate’s bed. The next day, she opened it and saw semen “all over” the keyboard. A quick look at the search history brought up pornography and telltale signs of a burn folder – whoever had broken into the home had downloaded photos of her.
“We knew for sure that he was in the house within 20 minutes of us leaving,” Hancock said, because the perpetrator was able to access their roommate’s normally locked computer. “We thought that this guy had been watching us, and that was the unsettling part.”
Orange resident Jonathan Jose Ruiz, 19, was arrested Oct. 11 on suspicion of breaking into the students’ home, according to the District Attorney’s office. He’s accused of entering the women’s home through a window between 9:20 p.m. and 11:10 p.m. Oct. 4, ransacking the victims’ bedrooms and scattering their undergarments throughout the home, as well as drinking milk and eating cookies from the women’s kitchen.
The roommates, who live less than a mile from Chapman, said they attempted to call police a few additional times after their initial call, at around 11:15 p.m., and said that it seemed like no one cared – Cripe saw two cop cars in the area when she went to get a snack at 7/11. Police responded to the scene at around 12:50 a.m.
“(The police) told us we couldn’t go inside, but we couldn’t leave, so we were on the street until 1:30 a.m.,” Cripe said.
When Cripe and Hancock’s roommate found her laptop the next day, police arrived at their home again and swabbed multiple items, including the semen left on one of the women’s laptop. Investigators ran the samples through the DA’s DNA database and matched the DNA to Ruiz, whose sample was submitted to the system in 2017 as part of a separate misdemeanor vandalism case.
When Ruiz was identified and arrested a week after the break-in, he had multiple pieces of the victims’ property, including two pairs of underwear, according to the DA’s office.
“The week after this happened was one of the most difficult time periods of all of our lives,” Cripe said. “We were sleeping on couches and could barely sleep every night; we couldn’t go to class. We were in a hotel one night and then we decided to go back to our house as a means to reclaim our power.”
While Ruiz was still at large, Cripe said she decided to take the issue to Public Safety, who wasn’t called on the night of the incident.
Chief of Public Safety Randy Burba said the department received a report of the incident Oct. 6, two days after the break-in.
“When I went into Public Safety that first time to report, they immediately said, ‘We don’t wanna minimize this. This is important, tell us,’” Cripe said. “They took me home one night to get clothes and took me to work because I was too nervous to go alone.”
But when Cripe and Hancock asked Public Safety and university administrators to issue an alert similar to the Timely Warning emails students receive from Public Safety when there are “concerning acts reported to have occurred on the campus of Chapman University,” officers and administrators told them they weren’t sure if the incident qualified, Cripe and Hancock said.
Timely Warnings are part of the university’s compliance with the Clery Act, so they are only sent out about on-campus incidents, Dean of Students Jerry Price wrote in an email to The Panther. Since the break-in was off campus, which is outside of Clery geography, the Timely Warning protocol didn’t apply.
Price and Burba tried to draft an alternative statement to a Timely Warning but Price “didn’t feel comfortable with it,” he wrote, as he didn’t want to adversely affect the ongoing investigation by including too much information about the incident.
“Regardless, I am disappointed that we failed to identify the appropriate communication more promptly, and apologize to the women who made the request,” Price wrote.
One of the main reasons Hancock and Cripe came forward is because they wanted to tell students to be careful and vigilant, Hancock said.
“Even though we had our windows closed and locked and everything, it was just a freaky thing that happened. I wanted other people to know about it mainly so that they can just be aware,” Hancock said. “(Women need to have an) awareness that we’re not always safe, even in Orange County.”
Sergeant Phil McMullin, the public information officer for the Orange police, said that cases like this that involve sexual gratification are “very rare” in Orange.
“One of the really surprisingly stressful parts of this whole thing was we had asked the school five times to send out an announcement,” Cripe said. “We had accepted ‘OK, this happened to us.’ But then we were like, ‘How do we make sure this doesn’t happen again? How do we make sure we stop this from ever happening in the future?’”
Ruiz, who was charged with vandalism and first-degree burglary, received sentencing enhancements for “crimes committed for purpose of sexual compulsion and gratification.” He remains free on $50,000 bail, according to court records. If convicted on all counts, he could face almost seven years in prison.