One suspect charged, three at large in sexual assault case

Police were continuing to search for three men they say are involved in an alleged sexual assault in the Campus Village apartments early Saturday, April 6.

One suspect is still in police custody. Mikkal Steffon Essex, 22, is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual assault causing personal injury and one count of assault by strangulation.

First-degree criminal sexual conduct involves penetration and carries a maximum penalty of life in prison with the possibility of parole, while the assault charge carries a 10-year maximum penalty.

The incident occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday in the apartments at Pierce and Davis roads across from SVSU’s campus, authorities said. Saginaw County Sheriff William Federspiel said an 18-year-old female and a 17-year-old female, one of whom is an SVSU student, reported being sexually assaulted in an apartment in the complex.

“There were four black males that came to the apartment, and I think one was an acquaintance of one of the girls, but we’re not sure how well they knew each other,” Federspiel said.

He said none of the suspects were students.

“They were older. Essex is 22 years of age, and the others are 25 years of age, or maybe even older than that,” he said. “We’re still trying to confirm dates of birth.”

Federspiel said Friday that police were still investigating the other three males’ involvement.

“We’re trying to find the location of the other three, but we’ve got (Essex) in custody, and he’s been arraigned with no bond,” he said. “We’re still looking for the other three individuals because we need to bring them in and interview them. There will probably be more charges coming once we track them down. We’ve identified two of the three individuals, and they’re evading us.”

Federspiel said police may release the names of the suspects if they cannot find them soon.

“It may come to a point where we release their names and ask the public to help find them,” he said. “Right now, we’re confident that we can catch up with them, but it’s taking us some time because they’re evading us and people are hiding them.”

Federspiel said the victims have been released from the hospital.

“I know the young ladies were treated, and I believe they were released from the hospital that night,” he said. “We haven’t received any updates that I know of since that night.”

Anyone with information about the case can call Sheriff’s Sgt. Aaron Simons at 989790-5404.

Essex appeared before Saginaw County District Judge Elian E.H. Fichtner on the afternoon of Thursday, April 11, for arraignment. Fichtner entered a not guilty plea on Essex’s behalf and ordered him jailed without bond ahead of a May 3 preliminary hearing.

In connection with his Monday, April 8, arrest, Essex faces seven counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer, a felony that carries a two-year maximum penalty.

J.J. Boehm, SVSU’s director of media and community relations, said SVSU was aware of the incident.

“We are aware of an alleged sexual assault that occurred off campus at Campus Village apartments over the weekend,” he said. “One of the two alleged victims is an SVSU student. Both alleged victims have been referred for support services offered on and off campus.”

Boehm said SVSU did not immediately send out a RAVE or mass email notification to students because it did not constitute an emergency situation, though an email was sent to students on Friday, April 12.

“Based on the information available, we determined that the situation did not pose an imminent threat to the campus community and did not issue an emergency alert,” Boehm said.

Kaitlyn Farley

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