by: Jud Crucis
“Mr. Jones, also had come to the attention of our threat assessment team because he was involved in a hazing investigation of some sort. I don’t know the facts and circumstances of that investigation. I know that it was eventually closed due to witnesses that would not cooperate with the process.”
— UPD Police Chief Tim Longo, 14 November, 2022 press conference
Mr. Jefferson’s University—an institution of higher learning— seems destined to relearn the lessons of handling issues regarding how student actions impact the lives of others. As a native-born son, I have observed this sad phenomenon for decades.
At the age of thirteen, and only six years after UVA allowed women to be enrolled, I remember the undisciplined chaos and shenanigans that followed. UVA was identified by Playboy Magazine as “the best partying college in America.” Then-Charlottesville-Police-chief, John deK Bowen and his officers were kept busy by the antics of the offspring-of-the-wealthy, as those wayward children spread their wings in a multitude of “youthful indiscretions.”
Following multiple incidents, the licentiousness of “Easters” finally came to a stop. In the fall of 1982, Robert Canevari, Dean of Students, recommended ending the University tradition of “Big Weekends.” This after an October event wherein a U-Haul van was traveling with 60 Sigma Chi fraternity students participating in a fraternity “roll”—a traditional rush week trip to nearby Randolph-Macon Woman’s College just outside Lynchburg. Less than five miles from the destination, the vehicle tipped over and collided with a Volkswagen, killing two and severely injuring many others.
Though some steps were taken to regain a degree of control over wild students, those populating the UVA bureaucracy were, like poor marksmen, still missing the target. In 1984, a female student Liz Seccuro was attending a fraternity party, at which she was given a spiked beverage and ultimately raped by William Beebe and others. Quoting from her book, Crash Into Me: A Survivors Search for Justice:
After cleaning up and finding my clothing, I gingerly walked down the stairs and out into a gorgeous October morning. I started to walk right, towards my dorm, but then realized I needed to get to a hospital. So I turned left, toward the university medical center.
After hours of waiting and many stares, I was told that what I needed “could not be done here in Charlottesville” and that I should travel to a large city such as Richmond or Washington, DC for testing. Those tests today are called “rape kits.”
I went back to my dorm, where I told my dorm mates and resident adviser what had happened to me. Some sympathized, some rolled their eyes and many just walked away. I was bruised from head to toe – my head, my cheekbone, my foot, my ribs, my legs and of course my private areas. I finally showered, had some soup and slept for a good 12 hours.
On the following Monday, it was arranged that I would meet with the dean of students, Robert Canevari. Still smarting from the pain, I arrived at the appointed time and told him what had happened to me at the Phi Kappa Psi house. He looked at me, nonplussed.
“Are you sure you didn’t have sex with this man and you don’t want to admit that you aren’t a ‘good girl’?”
“No, that’s not what I am saying. I am saying I was raped.”
The dean told me, when I asked, that the Charlottesville police could not be called as the fraternity house fell under “university jurisdiction” and that I should make my report to them. But not before he volunteered to have me transferred to another school because of my “distress.” I said no. I had always said no.
Ironically, it was then CPD Chief Tim Longo who assisted Liz in her search for justice. Again from her book:
I pick up the phone, hesitate, then punch in the number of the Charlottesville police department and ask for the chief. I am transferred to the voicemail of Timothy Longo. “Hi, you don’t know me, but I was a student at the university, and I was raped by a fellow classmate in 1984 at the Phi Kappa Psi house. I reported it to the deans and the university police. Nothing was done. This person has made contact with me again and knows where I live. Sir, I think I need your help.”
I don’t expect an answer. Forty-five minutes later, Chief Longo calls me back. I give him a synopsis of what happened in 1984, and what has since transpired. He is polite, strong and businesslike. He tells me that, contrary to what the dean of students had told me two decades earlier, the fraternity house is indeed under the jurisdiction of the Charlottesville police department and always has been. My brain freezes. Had they lied to me? I am stunned. Longo also tells me that there is no statute of limitations on rape in Virginia, that Beebe can still be charged with the crime. Longo and I exchange email addresses, and he tells me that he or one of his detectives will follow up.
There is a pattern of avoidance and cover-up beneath the Dome, and this pattern seemingly was employed again—this time to conceal something far more tragic. Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr. was a Cavalier football player, though he never took the field. According to reports, he was a team member until just a year ago. Sometime between 2018 and last year when he left the team; charges of hazing were reported.
University of Virginia police Chief Tim Longo stated recently, that the hazing investigation eventually closed due to uncooperative witnesses. Why? One needs little imagination to ascertain why. Sometimes, it’s easier to leave things in the dark, as an Albemarle High School JV football player is now experiencing regarding allegedly being raped by his fellow teammates—the bureaucracy is the devil.
CBS 19 News ran an interview with an eyewitness to the shooting who was on the motor coach when the shooting took place. She stated that as Christopher Darnell Jones exited the bus, he pulled his weapon and stated to the victims that “I’m tired of you all messing with me.”
The same modus operandi used in Liz Seccuro’s case in 1984 remains in place today. It seems logical that since the “process” failed him, Jones, wrongfully, may have taken matters into his own hands. Jones’s father even reported that Christopher was having issues with bullying.
Given the present conditions, one can only wonder where things broke down:
- Did former coach Mendenhall suddenly choose to retire due to the failure of the “process”?
- Why did the bureaucracy not press the “hazing” witnesses to cooperate and establish the truth?
- Were the players guilty of the hazing considered too valuable to bench or be removed from the team?
- Were the profits needed by UVA athletics more important than the rights of Mr. Jones to participate in football and obtain his education unfettered by bullies?
- Did present Dean of Students Robyn S Hadley gave Jones the same option that Liz Seccuro received from Robert Canaveri?
These are just the first of many questions that should rightfully be asked and answered.
Sadly, it took nearly a quarter century for Liz Seccuro to gain closure—a closure only obtained because perpetrator William Beebe contacted her. Had he not, thanks to the University of Virginia’s inaction, Seccuro would still have an open wound.
Also sadly, Christopher Jones may have felt that he had no other way to handle the abuse, so he found a way to make it stop. If this was the case, was he wrong? Yes, of course. Was UVA wrong in its failure to do more than simply close the investigation because the witnesses refused to cooperate? ABSOLUTELY!!
High school and college athletic programs are long overdue for a major overhaul, review, and stronger oversight. The fact that this community is dealing with both the alleged rape of the Albemarle High School JV football player AND this tragic shooting at UVA, further serves to prove the point.
There seems to be an unusual amount of entitlement among some football players. For reasons that are not clear, these issues generally are not found in baseball, golf, tennis, and basketball programs. Whatever the issue is, it needs to be identified and corrected.
Going forward, President Ryan and his administration have some accounting to do. It also is evident that the practice of allowing the University such great leeway in circumnavigating legal protection, needs to be eliminated.
Permit Chief Longo to police the University just as he did the city of Charlottesville, while he was employed there. No more pretend justice—that approach obviously fails. A rape or a hazing victim deserves the same guarantee of rights whether on Observatory Hill or on the Thomas Jefferson Parkway.
We need to stop keeping so much hidden under the Dome.