Prosecutors Dismiss Case Against Man Charged With Raping Student In UMKC Dorm

Oct 3, 2017

Jackson County prosecutors have dismissed a case against a man accused of raping a University of Missouri-Kansas City student after she was allegedly carried unconscious through the lobby of a campus dormitory.

Jackson County court records show the rape charge against Juan D. Contreras of Greeley, Colorado, was dismissed on Monday.

Michael Mansur, a spokesman for Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker, confirmed the charge had been dismissed and the case closed.

“After we met with the victim and witnesses in the case, we concluded we would not be able to carry our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.

Mansur added that UMKC police had been made aware of the case’s dismissal.

Contreras, who was 22 at the time of the alleged incident, was not a student at UMKC. Several news outlets reported he was an undocumented immigrant.

Contreras’ attorney with the Missouri Public Defender’s Office did not return a call seeking comment.

The incident allegedly occurred on Feb. 23 or Feb. 24 at the Johnson Resident Hall at 50th and Oak streets. 

According to court documents:

Contreras, the alleged victim and two other people went drinking in Lawrence, Kansas, earlier in the evening. After consuming an alcoholic drink that Contreras bought for her, the alleged victim said she did not remember anything until she woke up in her room the next morning and found some of her clothing removed.  

She told police that after she asked Contreras what happened, he allegedly told her that he had sex with her. She said she accused him of raping her and began striking him in the face.

Surveillance video allegedly showed Contreras carrying her unconscious into the building the night before.

Contreras was charged a week later with one count of first-degree rape.

The incident touched off a furor at UMKC, with many students expressing frustration over the school’s handling of the incident and concerns about their safety.

Two weeks later, about 70 students marched through the campus and held a sit-in inside the UMKC administration building, where Vice Chancellor Melvin Tyler listened to their grievances. The students complained that officials responded too late and inadequately to the incident and that campus services to help rape victims were insufficient and underfunded.

Administrators later met with students, faculty and staff, and then-Chancellor Leo Morton pledged to improve the school’s security and notification processes.

The Contreras case underscores the difficulty of prosecuting rape cases, which often involve one person’s word against another. And when the survivor is unconscious at the time he or she is raped, absent DNA or other forensic evidence, the case becomes that much more difficult to prosecute.

“Many times there's no physical evidence because the issue isn't forcible rape or someone was injured or there's a rape kit that would actually show anything,” said J.R. Hobbs, a prominent local defense attorney who was not involved in the Contreras case. “It comes down to whether the person was inebriated so that she didn't really consent.”

Editor's note: KCUR is licensed to the University of Missouri Board of Curators and is an editorially independent community service of the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Dan Margolies is KCUR’s health editor. You can reach him on Twitter @DanMargolies.