Eastern Michigan U. to Pay $2.5 Million in Dorm Room Death, Faces Largest Ever Clery Fine

YPSILANTI, Mich. – The family of a 22-year-old student found dead in her dorm room in Dec. 2006 will receive $2.5 million from Eastern Michigan University (EMU). The Department of Education (DOE) also recommended the school pay $357,500 in fines for violating the Clery Act.

Laura Dickinson was found in her dorm room Dec. 15, 2006, two days after her death. She was found naked from the waist down with a pillow over her head. At the time, school officials told Dickinson’s family that no foul play was suspected, leaving the family to believe their daughter died of asphyxiation.

Ten weeks later, police arrested 21-year-old Orange Taylor III for the rape and murder of Dickinson. The family, students and the DOE alike were outraged by the revelation of a murder on campus.

The DOE has recommended the university pay $357,500 in fines after discovering the school had violated the law on 13 counts. Each violation is a $27,500 fine. It is the largest fine ever leveled against a school for failure to abide by the Clery Act.

In a letter sent to the university, the DOE stated the school failed to issue a timely warning required by the Clery Act and also lacked a timely-warning policy. The letter also mentioned EMU’s inability to provide a campus crime log, required by law, and improperly released crime statistics, incompletely reported those crimes, and were in need of policies with procedures on how to deal with the 2003-2005 statistics.

Donald Loppnow, the executive vice president and provost of the university, said the school will pay the fine and was expecting it.

The poor handling of this case resulted in the board of regents firing President John Fallon, Vice President of Student Affairs Jim Vick and Public Safety Director Cindy Hall. Fallon was paid a full year’s salary of $225,000, while Vick and Hall received severance packages of $144,832 and $100,421, respectively. The latter agreed not to sue the university based on the terms of their firings.

As for the Dickinson settlement, EMU did not admit liability and the Dickinson family agreed to not discuss the case. The settlement payout is expected to come from EMU’s insurance policy.

Taylor is expected to forego a retrial in January after a hung jury could not reach a verdict in his October trial about his involvement in Dickinson’s death.

EMU has spent at least of $4 million on this case.

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