Catawba student accused of raping woman in dorm stairwell

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2012

By Nathan Hardin
SALISBURY — A Catawba College student is accused of raping a woman in a dorm stairwell Sunday morning, authorities said.
Salisbury Police arrested 21-year-old Matthew Stewart on campus Tuesday afternoon. He was charged with second-degree rape.
According to an arrest report, Stewart and the woman were at a party together before the alleged incident. Both are students at the college, but the report did not say if the party was on campus.
The woman knew Stewart and his girlfriend, police said, but the couple had been fighting.
Stewart began trying to kiss the girl in the stairwell of Hollifield Residence Hall following the party about 6 a.m.
“He then forced himself on her,” said Salisbury Police Capt. Shelia Lingle.
The report indicated alcohol was not a factor.
Lingle said text messages were sent between the two, but it was unclear if they were before or after the incident.
Lingle said she could not say if cell phones were seized during the investigation.
Officers were notified Monday morning. Stewart was arrested Tuesday afternoon.
In an email, Catawba College spokeswoman Tonia Black-Gold said the college is conducting an internal investigation into the incident.
Stewart remains a student and a member of the college’s men’s soccer team until “due process” has concluded. She said she expects the judicial proceedings to end sometime next week.
“Now our focus is on protecting the normalcy of the campus community in these days before Easter break,” she said. “Because of this we won’t be allowing media on campus and outside of what I share in this email, we have no statement to make.”
Students were notified about the incident after Stewart’s arrest, Black-Gold said.
She said the “timely notification” was sent about 5:15 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Students told the Post the notification said a student was sexually assaulted.
It did not say the arrested suspect was a student at the college.
“…the Office of Public Safety is giving notice of a reported sexual assault of a Catawba College student. The suspect was apprehended by the Salisbury Police Department,” the notification said.
“We send out this notice to both inform you and to ask that you exercise caution. We remind you that if you observe any suspicious activity or persons in your area on campus, please contact Public Safety …”
Stewart was released after posting a $50,000 bond Tuesday night.
Black-Gold said Stewart is not allowed on campus until the investigation has been resolved and he is not allowed to contact the victim.
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.