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Comedian suspected in campus attacks is charged with rape

May 14, 1997

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ A comedian from Los Angeles suspected in a series of rapes at college campuses across the Midwest was charged with one of the attacks on Tuesday, that of a teacher at a university computer lab.

An arrest warrant released Tuesday charged Vinson Horace Champ of first-degree sexual assault in the March 5 rape of a teacher at a computer lab at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

The victim, 30-year-old business teacher Heidi Hess, said it was ``sickly ironic″ that a comedian has been charged in the crime.

``A comedian is suppose to be funny and make people laugh and this wasn’t funny,″ said Hess, who has spoken out about the case and wants to be identified by name.

Hours before the attack, Champ, 35, performed his routine at a small college four hours from Omaha.

It was not immediately known if he had been arrested. Prosecutors did not return phone calls.

Champ told the Lincoln Journal Star on Saturday that he was ``101 percent innocent.″ He has not returned messages left by The Associated Press on his answering machine this week.

Four rapes and two attempted rapes occurred in February and March on small college campuses in Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Wisconsin.

The similarities of the attacks prompted officials last month to suspect a serial rapist was responsible. In each of the rapes, the attacker spit on his victims, quizzed them about their sex lives and asked them to pray for him.

Champ came under scrutiny in the Midwest attacks after he was arrested last week and charged with the attempted rape of a student at Pasadena City College in California. Police said he attacked a woman playing a piano and fled after she screamed.

Champ was released after posting a $7,500 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court June 10.

The other attacks took place at Union College in Lincoln, Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., Carthage College in Kenosha, Wis., St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, and Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill.

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