Campus Crime Crusade : Howard and Connie Clery Lost Their Daughter to a Crazed Thief; Now They’re Angry and Fighting Back

Times Staff Writer

Howard and Connie Clery were delighted when their only daughter, Jeanne, told them of her decision to enroll at Lehigh, a small private co-educational university in Bethlehem, Pa., little more than an hour from home.

Had she chosen to follow in the footsteps of her two brothers, Jeanne might have gone off to New Orleans, to Tulane, which was so far away. Yes, the Clerys agreed, Lehigh was perfect.

“The minute she saw Lehigh she fell in love with it,” Connie Clery remembers. Spread over 1,600 wooded hilltop acres, the school seemed, she says, “very serene.” And very safe.


But on April 5, 1986, in the spring of her freshman year, Jeanne Clery, 19, a ranked amateur tennis player who hoped for a career in communications, was murdered in her dorm room--beaten, tortured, sodomized, raped and strangled.

The killer, Josoph Henry, 20, a Lehigh sophomore from Newark, N.J., had gained entry to co-ed Stoughton Hall through three locking doors that had been propped open by other residents so their visitors could come and go freely.

A Random Encounter

Blonde, blue-eyed Jeanne Clery was Henry’s random victim.

The Clerys, as they learned the facts of the case, grew convinced that their daughter had died because of “slipshod” security on campus. Further, they contend that the university had “a rapidly escalating crime rate, which they didn’t tell anybody about.”

Lehigh denies this. John Smeaton, vice president for student affairs, says security measures were “more than adequate, reasonable and appropriate for our setting and our situation. You can’t prevent everything from happening.”

The Clerys are angry, and, though they had never been activists, they have launched a crusade. Their nonprofit corporation, Security On Campus Inc., hopes to make college campuses safer and to alert parents and prospective students to violence.

“On some campuses,” he says, “the felony rate’s skyrocketing” while administrators turn the other cheek for fear that the institution’s image, prestige and pocketbook will be hurt.

“We just never thought of asking” about crime at Lehigh, Connie Clery says. “We weren’t aware.” What she has learned, she says, is that a felon “could be your roommate. That’s the way things are in colleges today.”

Why, she asks, is it more important to know an applicant’s SAT scores than whether that person is a convicted felon? “What is wrong with these college administrators that they care more about the money and the buildings than they do about lives?”

But, Smeaton says, “I think you’ll find that it’s illegal to provide that sort of information” for anyone under 18. Further, he says, “if we asked that question on an application, is the student going to say yes? What we do is get character references.”

Although Henry pleaded not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, in April, 1987, he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die in the electric chair. He has exhausted his appeals in lower courts and is awaiting an argument date before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

His conviction was the culmination of a nightmare that began in mid-afternoon of the day Jeanne died, as the Clerys, rested and relaxed from a Bermuda vacation, returned to their Bryn Mawr home. As their cab pulled up, they saw the police car in their drive.

Perhaps the burglar alarm had gone off, they thought. Then they were told their daughter had been found dead in her dorm room. Assailant, unknown.

A week earlier, on Easter Sunday, the Clerys had attended Mass with Jeanne before driving her to campus. “She couldn’t wait to get back to school,” her mother recalls. “She loved Lehigh. It was the happiest year of her life.”

In the days after her death, the awful story began to unfold.

The night before her murder, Jeanne Clery had attended a fraternity party on campus, returning to her dorm around 3 a.m. Her roommate had a date and, having misplaced her room key, asked Jeanne to leave the door unlocked.

Sometime between 4 and 6:30 in the morning, a Saturday, while Jeanne Clery slept, Josoph Henry walked through those propped exterior doors.

Finding the door from the stairwell to the second floor, a male students’ floor, locked, he walked up to the third floor, where 22 women lived. The first door he came to was Jeanne Clery’s and he found it ajar.

“He was a thief,” says Northampton County, Pa., assistant district attorney Richard Pepper, who prosecuted the case. “He went up there to steal. He was taking things when Jeanne woke up. He realized he had to silence her.”

Before strangling her, he taunted her by drawing a broken beer bottle back and forth across her throat. “He hated women,” Pepper says. “He had a great deal of difficulty dealing with women.”

Connie Clery says: “Jeanne didn’t have a chance. She didn’t have a chance.”

About to sneak out of the building, Henry thought he had dropped his wallet in her room. So, stashing Jeanne’s radio, camera and other items he had stolen in the basement laundry, he went back to look for it.

Probably at that time, he bit her all over, “just to make sure she was dead,” Connie Clery says. Biting cleanly through her face, he left the wide-gap bite marks that helped to convict him.

Henry then returned to his off-campus apartment, dumped his loot into a black garbage bag and put it alongside the trash out back for temporary safekeeping.

About 11 a.m., a dorm resident, hurrying to answer a phone, passed Jeanne’s open door and spotted her body.

Later, as Henry and some friends talked and listened to the dead woman’s radio, he boasted about the burglary; that boast proved his undoing when a friend went to state police.

When police staked out Henry’s house, they found him spreading the garbage bag and its contents on his bedroom floor.

The Clerys want every parent, every college student, to know that their tragedy is not an isolated case.

They filed a $25-million civil suit against Lehigh, charging negligence and alleging that the university had been aware of the practice of door propping, that the security situation on campus had been misrepresented in Jeanne’s housing contract and that the administration knew Henry to be violent and abusive.

(Henry, once a high school honor student, had flunked out of Lehigh his freshman year but had been readmitted. For a time, he worked in the campus housing office. He had no prior criminal record, though he had been disciplined for throwing a rock through a female student’s window. Prosecutor Pepper says that, based on Henry’s records, “there’s no way Lehigh could have foreseen this type of conduct.”)

Settlement Reached

An out-of-court settlement was reached in June, 1988, both parties agreeing not to disclose financial terms. But Lehigh has agreed in the 1989-90 academic year to implement a pilot program to increase security. It will include a card access system for the dorm complex where Jeanne Clery was killed and electronic devices to alert personnel to propped doors.

Lehigh’s Smeaton says the settlement is not an acknowledgement of negligence. No one “should have had to experience this kind of loss,” he says, but “this incident could have happened on most any campus and, unfortunately, has happened on other campuses.”

Smeaton, who has two daughters, says: “We support what (the Clerys) are about, the legislation” to make public data on safety. “They should be given full credit.”

But, he cautions, campus crime statistics can be “misleading” depending, for example, upon whether campus police have powers of arrest as they do at Lehigh.

The Clerys, who say they are “well satisfied” with terms of the civil settlement, wanted no money for themselves--they thought of it as “blood money.” Rather, Security On Campus Inc. (618 Shoemaker Road, Suite 105, Gulph Mills, Pa. 19406) is working state by state for legislation requiring private and public colleges and universities to make public cumulative campus crime statistics.

As a result of the Clerys’ campaign, laws have been passed in Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana, introduced in California, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey and soon will be reintroduced in Missouri and Texas.

Sen. Art Torres (D- Los Angeles), who calls campus crime “one of the best-kept secrets,” is principal author of SB 1358, which passed unanimously in the California Senate, has cleared the Assembly Education Committee and will go to Ways and Means Aug. 30. On that day, the Clerys and families of other victims will testify in Sacramento.

Annual Crime Report

If the bill becomes law, both public and private post-secondary institutions must report annually to the State Department of Justice the number and types of crimes committed in their jurisdictions and to provide that data on request, along with information on security, to applicants and parents, students, faculty, administrators and employees. Violating institutions would be fined $10,000.

The Clerys are pushing for similar federal legislation and have a sponsor, Rep. Bill Goodling (R-Pa.).

Meanwhile, Security On Campus is a clearinghouse for information on campus crime, the Clerys are testifying at legislative hearings in other states and Security On Campus has sent out 50,000 questionnaires to students, parents and school advisers to encourage them to ask colleges tough questions about crime and drug use and underage drinking.

They have concluded, Howard Clery says, that “you’re far safer at home than you are on a college campus. It’s a medieval myth that colleges are safe.”

Misleading Stats

The International Assn. of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators has taken no official position on the legislation but President Donald L. Salyers of Marshall University in West Virginia says, “We encourage and support reporting of all crime statistics from all institutions of higher education.” Fewer than 400 of 3,000 institutions nationwide now report in the FBI’s uniform system, he says, so campus crime statistics are “very misleading.”

Salyers says campus crime “is not at a crisis level.” But, he cautions, “a lot of folks who come to a campus, regardless of its location, consider it a sanctuary. Of course, that is not the real world.”

In legislatures and on campuses, there is opposition to the Clerys’ effort. Some institutions fear that making public crime information will encourage more negligence suits. Others contend that schools in a state where reporting is required will be unfairly compared with schools in states where it is not.

Boyd Horne, assistant vice chancellor for the California State University system with responsibility for public safety, says the university supports the legislation, with reservations: “There are some added costs and we have suggested, requested, urged that the funds be provided to do more than we’re doing now.”

Significant Costs

The state system, he said, already reports crime statistics monthly for each campus to the state justice department but there would be “somewhat significant publication costs” to make available crime and security data to 365,000 students and 35,000 employees.

Rick Malaspina, a spokesman in the University of California chancellor’s office, said of the Torres bill: “I don’t see that we would have any quarrel with the intent” but there are concerns about “added costs, paper work and all that.” The UCs, like the state universities, regularly report crime statistics to appropriate agencies.

The chancellor of the California Community Colleges initially opposed the bill, says vice chancellor Ann Reed, on the basis that it “included an extreme number of mandates . . . the colleges believed it was in excess of what they could easily comply with and what would be necessary.” The bill since has been amended and “now reflects our concerns in a large way.”

There are 107 colleges in that system and no statewide crime reporting procedure, as some colleges have police departments that report felonies directly to the justice department while others have only campus security forces that report to local police.

The Center for the Study and Prevention of Campus Violence, based at Towson State University in Maryland, began annual surveys in 1985, asking 1,100 colleges and universities nationwide, public and private, to report crime statistics and their responses to campus crime.

In the most recent survey, published in December, the schools reported six homicides, three committed by students. There were 205 rapes, of which 34% were acquaintance rapes, 78% were perpetrated by students and 41% involved alcohol.

Acquaintance, or date rape, on college campuses is “epidemic,” says Gail Abarbanel, director of the Rape Treatment Center at Santa Monica Hospital, which in 1988 published, “Sexual Assault on Campus: What Colleges Can Do,” a booklet sent to the president of every U.S. college and university. (Its recommendations included educational blitzes, evening escort services, 24-hour card entry systems for dormitories and self-locking doors on residence rooms.)

The Campus Secret

Rape, Abarbanel says, remains “the hidden secret” among college students as most victims are reluctant to get involved in the criminal justice system. The statistics lie, she says, because “the crime really has been run underground.”

Indeed, respondents to the Towson State survey said only 8.4% of on-campus sexual assaults resulted in criminal prosecution.

Although 95% of respondents said they have provisions for immediate suspension of students who constitute a real or perceived danger to others, 10% conceded they are unable to exercise this authority.

A survey of 6,000 students, now being compiled, is expected to show that “roughly 80% of violence on college campuses is alcohol related,” says Jan Sherrill, director of the Towson State center. Overall, he says, “I think we’re going to find a frightening amount of college students who say they have been victims of crimes on their campuses.” Homophobia, he said, is approaching “dangerously high levels in some places.”

Of efforts to mandate reporting, Sherrill says, “We’re not necessarily in favor of legislation. What we are in favor of is self legislation . . . we abhor colleges trying to hide (crime) information.”

Some schools are fighting crime with innovative programs. There are rape awareness weeks, rape education projects, self-defense workshops.

UCLA, for example, “has really done an outstanding job” trying to reduce the problem of rape, with “state-of-the-art security” including an alarm system for propped doors, card key entry and dorm monitors, Abarbanel says.

At USC, a private university in a decidedly urban setting, security personnel provide statistics to the student newspaper, which each day prints the crime figures for the previous 24 hours. USC is installing a $2-million electronic surveillance system that will alert security when a dorm or on-campus apartment door is open. A card entry access system to dorms is also being initiated.

Student Obstacle

But chief of security Steven Ward, testifying at a June Senate special committee hearing on campus crime and violence, said, “We recognize that the biggest obstacle to making this electronic system work is going to be the students themselves, for whom it’s extremely inconvenient. And so the educational issue is just critical. . . .”

Howard and Connie Clery insist legislative action also is a must. “Unless we have legislation,” he says, “The colleges will never do anything.”

Connie Clery says, “We live every minute with the horror of what Jeanne suffered.” What keeps them going on the most terrible days, she says, are “faith, family and friends, and having had a daughter who was a true gift from God . . . we love our daughter. We want her life not to have been in vain.” And, she says, “we feel now we have a banner we have to keep carrying.”

In their case, justice will have been done, they believe, when the death penalty is carried out against their daughter’s murderer.

Howard Clery does not hesitate to say, “I hope I live long enough to go to his execution. And I’d sit in the front row.”