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Monday, December 22, 2014

Police begin investigation two years after Missouri swimmer’s death

Former Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey committed suicide in 2011.

Outside the Lines

After an ESPN report first published Jan. 24 claimed athletic department officials may have known about a possible sexual assault involving Missouri swimmer Sasha Menu Courey and at least one member of the Missouri football team in February 2010, the university announced Sunday it would turn information about the incident over to the Columbia Police Department.

Menu Courey committed suicide on June 17, 2011, after battling borderline personality disorder, a type of depression. Her parents say the assault only worsened her condition.

“I feel like this is what really killed her,” mother Lynn Courey told The Maneater.

MU

UM System President Tim Wolfe requested Sunday the system’s Board of Curators hire an outside investigator to conduct an independent review of how Menu Courey’s condition was handled.

Wolfe also ordered UM chancellors to “lead a comprehensive review” of campus sexual assault policies.

“We must ensure that each of our campuses has the necessary resources to educate the campus community about sexual assault and prevention, as well as an effective process for reporting such incidents, plus adequate capacity to address mental health issues among our students, faculty and staff,” Wolfe said in a statement.

He offered to make system-wide funding available to revamp sexual assault prevention and reporting procedures.

“The family and friends of Sasha Menu Courey are pleased to hear that the University of Missouri is initiating an independent investigation into its handling of the alleged sexual assault and matters related to mental illness,” the family said in a statement Monday.

An hour after the report aired nationally Sunday, the university announced its cooperation with CPD.

Mizzou Athletics

The athletic department released four points to which it takes exception regarding the ESPN report, calling the 15-minute segment “skewed and unfair.”

The release laments the idea that athletic department personnel had any knowledge of the alleged assault because health care professionals are not required to make reports of sexual assaults in which their patients are involved.

The release also disputed that athletics personnel, specifically swim and dive team academic coordinator Meghan Anderson, had any knowledge of the assault before Menu Courey’s death, or that MU could have launched an investigation in February 2012 after a Columbia Daily Tribune article made rape allegations public for the first time.

It is “strange and inappropriate,” the release said, for MU to come under fire for not investigating the alleged assault when Menu Courey’s parents did not respond to a January 2013 letter from the MU Office of Student Conduct.

University officials say they first learned of the alleged assault after looking through Menu Courey’s university email account following an open records request in the fall of 2012, when they found an online chat transcript between Menu Courey and a crisis prevention center saved in her drafts folder.

The Office of Student Conduct sent Courey and Menu the transcript, along with other documents, with the January 2013 letter. The office also asked for more information and the family’s preference starting an investigation.

Courey and Menu did not respond to the letter because they said they felt it was the university’s duty to open an investigation itself. The parents said they had no more information to provide and that MU had more access to Menu Courey’s correspondence than they did.

“We strongly believe that it was the university’s role to start an investigation,” Courey said. “They had the same information we had.”

Sasha Menu Courey

Menu Courey first struggled with mental illness as a teenager, when she attempted suicide following a breakup with a boyfriend. A therapist wrote the attempt off as teen angst.

She posted a 4.0 GPA her first semester. Personal journal entries describe a rape six months after she arrived at MU.

Menu Courey checked herself into University Hospital in April for suicidal thoughts. She was released to her parents, who traveled to Columbia from their native Toronto.

But days later during her parents’ visit, Menu Courey checked into a local motel and tried to kill herself by slitting her wrists. Menu said he thought his daughter was beyond saving after the incident.

“She was already six feet under when we found out she needed help,” he said.

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