Omaha native arrested on rape, robbery, kidnapping charges

Amy Poppinga

Amy Poppinga

Chris L. Jones, a 21-year-old Brookings man, was arrested just before 11 p.m., April 20 and faces rape, robbery and kidnapping charges in connection with three reported sexual assaults in the Brookings community over the last month.

Jones, according to a Brookings Police Department release, recently moved to Brookings from Omaha. He was unemployed and living at 611 16th Ave. No. 1.

Bob Otterson, executive assistant to President David Chicoine, said Jones is not a student and has no connection with the university. Jones was in Brookings staying with his girlfriend and that is the only tie he has with the community, according to his bail hearing.

Brookings Police Chief Jeff Miller called Jones a “serial rapist” and said that he had become more emboldened with every assault he committed.

“Thank God we have him in custody and can bring this chapter to a halt,” he said.

According to the release, Jones was brought in for questioning after officers from the Brookings police, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, the University Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation converged on his home. Miller said law enforcement officials received more than 50 tips about the incidents and ultimately tracking dogs from Watertown led them to Jones’ location. He was not attempting to commit another crime at the time of his apprehension.

According to Miller, Jones confessed to the two on-campus assaults and the off-campus kidnapping, sexual assault and robbery that occurred April 20.

The 24-year-old Brookings woman involved in that incident was abducted on Brooklawn Drive on the south side of Brookings; the assault occurred in another location, which Miller is not releasing.

Jones is being charged with one felony count of kidnapping, five counts of second-degree rape, two counts of first-degree robbery, and one count of attempted robbery.

He faces a possible life sentence on the kidnapping charge, and maximum penalties that include multiple years in prison and more than $100,000 in fines.

Judge Vincent Foley set bail for Jones at $250,000 cash April 21. Foley told Jones he set the bail that high due to his lack of employment and ties to the community.

“The defendant has only recently moved here, from Nebraska, he has no family here and considering the severity of these charges, I do believe he is a danger to the community if he would be released on bond,” said Clyde Calhoon, Brookings State’s Attorney.

Jones’ next court appearance is April 26 at 9 a.m.

The arrest was a combination of efforts of numerous law enforcement personnel, Miller said, who put in a lot of hours to find Jones. He specifically recognized Cam Corey of the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation and Cora Olson of the University Police Department.

“I can’t say enough about the detectives and all that they do,” he said. “Every day they surprise me.”

Miller said Brookings is still a pretty safe community, but people should remain vigilant.

“We are still urging people to be cautious and aware of their surroundings, especially when traveling at night,” he said.

Otterson said he expects the arrest to reduce stress levels on campus significantly.

“We expect a certain expression of thanks and relief at the campus today,” he said. “Chief Heaton (of the University Police Department) and his officers have made our students’ safety a priority, more so even in the last three weeks.”

While the alleged rapist is in custody, Otterson also urged students and the campus community to continue to keep personal safety a main concern.

“The message about personal safety practices should never be ignored, and we at the university still encourage students to be aware of their surroundings … when walking alone at night,” Otterson said.