NCSU Vice Provost Says UNCW Murders Could Have Happened On Any Campus
Posted June 7, 2004 10:29 a.m. EDT
WILMINGTON, N.C. — Following the weekend killing of a University of North Carolina at Wilmington student -- the second murder of a female UNCW student on or near campus in the past month -- Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo said the school will step up its efforts to "review procedures and processes to protect our students.
"This recent tragedy further compels our commitment and resolve to explore what additional measures, if any, the university can take to ensure the safety of our university community," DePaolo said.
Meanwhile, Thomas Conway, a vice provost at North Carolina State University, said: "This could have happened on any of our campuses.
"None of us are immune to this kind of activity," Conway said.
Christen Naujoks, a junior transfer who had taken classes the past academic year but was not scheduled to return, was fatally shot at her apartment complex in Wilmington Friday night. The alleged suspect, John Peck, was a former student at the university.
After it recently was discovered that Peck had lied on his admissions application regarding his criminal background, UNCW suspended him effective May 27.
After a recent visit by Naujoks to university police, the police assisted her in obtaining a protective order against Peck.
In that filing, Naujoks advised police to consider Peck a threat.
"He's crazy," she wrote. "He will do anything to get away from police."
A month ago, UNCW student Jessica Faulkner, of Cary, was murdered in her dorm room. The suspect in that case, Curtis Dixon, also allegedly lied on his application about past criminal offenses -- bringing the school's admissions policy under scrutiny.
"The death of Jessica Faulkner prompted us to review procedures and processes to protect our students," DePaolo said.
Legal counsel for the UNC system said they were not aware of any university that conducted criminal background checks on every student. So it is not hard to hide a criminal history on a college application.
Conway said applicants who check "yes" to a criminal conviction are investigated. Those who check "no" simply are not. He said it would be difficult to conduct criminal background checks for every applicant at N.C. State and UNC systemwide.
"What we'd probably end up doing is bogging down the system well beyond what the public would tolerate in terms of our admissions processes," he said, "particularly at public institutions."
N.C. State and the other 15 UNC campuses will form a task force to look at what can be done from an admissions standpoint. But a spokesman for the UNC system said the issue of preventing violence on campuses may better be suited for the public safety department.
"The biggest thing you want to do is educate to reduce the risk," said NCSU police Sgt. Jon Barnwell.
But sometimes, said Barnwell, it takes a reminder like the murders at UNCW to get campus police and communities to work together to reduce the risk.
"When something does happen, then it does remind you that we have a bigger job to do, not just in reacting, but in being proactive."
Authorities said Monday they have not located Peck, who is considered dangerous and armed with an assault rifle. Investigators said Peck has been in contact with his father but did not elaborate on what was discussed between the two.
"No homicide is good, but this one was particularly violent," said New Hanover Sheriff's Chief Deputy Tom Parker.
Parker said nearly all of the department's 25 detectives were working on the case.
There have been reported sightings of Peck in Asheville on Sunday and Johnson City, Tenn., on Monday. Authorities found a wig and women's clothing inside his home, so he may be disguising himself as a woman.
Because Peck grew up in a law enforcement family -- his father is a former employee of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office -- authorities are concerned that he is a serious threat and knows how to evade officials.
Investigators said that Peck saw Naujoks driving around town Friday, followed her to her house and then confronted her.
Peck is believed to be headed toward Naujok's parents' home in Ohio, or to his mother's house in Florida. Investigators carried out an electronic search on Peck's computer and found that he visited Mapquest and looked up directions to Naujok's parents' address.
Peck reportedly has not made any direct threats to Naujok's family. But in a March 2004 restraining order, Naujoks claimed Peck threatened to get a gun, go to her house and kill himself on her doorstep.