Courtesy of OSU
When Baker Hall East resident Carol Fragoso’s roommate woke up to get a drink of water at about 5 a.m. on Jan. 26, she noticed the door to her dorm room was slightly ajar, even though she and her roommate had closed it earlier that night.
“She didn’t think anything of it. She just figured that someone had peeked in, one of our friends did or something,” said Fragoso, a first-year in business. “In the morning, she noticed that her money ($200) was missing.”
Fragoso said she usually locks the door at night, but they had “just forgotten about it” that night.
Although at the time, Fragoso said her roommate thought the money had been misplaced, later that day, their resident adviser informed residents that a theft had occurred in the building overnight.
Fragoso did not notice her missing belongings until after the floor meeting.
Fragoso and her roommate’s things were among a total of $4,550 worth of items that were taken from three dorm rooms and six people at about 4 a.m. that morning, said Ohio State Police Deputy Chief Richard Morman.
“Some people were sharing their stories and some guy said that his laptop got stolen, his MacBook. And I was like, ‘Wow, that’s crazy, I wonder why he didn’t steal mine.’ And then I go back to my room and check, and then my laptop’s not even there,” Fragoso said.
Items that were stolen from other rooms included $59 in cash, two MacBook laptops, an iPhone, an iPod touch, a Panasonic digital camera and two wallets with IDs, gift cards, debit cards and a room key inside, according to the police reports.
There is a suspect in the case: a non-OSU student who is “not from the Columbus area,” according to an email from Baker East hall director Halea Hatten, sent on Jan. 31.
The suspect supposedly entered the building after telling office assistants at the front desk that he had left personal belongings in the building earlier in the day. It is unclear whether the man was there earlier, Morman said.
Hatten was unable to provide comment on the incident, but Cheryl Lyons, director of Residence Life, gave a statement in an email that The Lantern received from Student Life spokesman Dave Isaacs.
“Our security system is designed so that only residents with a properly coded BuckID can access their residence hall, but unfortunate situations can arise when casual acquaintances or those who are unknown are allowed to enter. Non-residents should be escorted by their resident hosts at all times while in the building. OSU works diligently to ensure everyone’s safety, and we depend on students to help us in that effort,” Lyons said.
The thief was allegedly targeting female residents when looking for unlocked doors, Morman said.
“A couple people said that they heard somebody knocking on the door … The roommates were there together (and said) ‘Come in.’ The guy came in and was like, ‘Oh, is Ashley here?’ … They said no, he said, ‘Oh wrong room,’ or something like that, and it sounds like this guy somewhat fits the description of this other guy that they have as a suspect now,” Morman said.
Some of the victims said they thought the perpetrator chose female rooms because it lessened his own risk.
“We figured it’s probably because there’s less chance that they’re going to fight back if they woke up,” Fragoso said.
She added that she thought Baker East was targeted because of the “low amount of security” compared to buildings such as Park-Stradley Hall, where each room automatically locks when the door shuts and requires the residents’ BuckIDs to get into their rooms, and Morrill Tower, where students have to swipe their BuckIDs before they can use the elevator up to the residential floors.
Another theft victim said that he and his friends also forgot to lock their room’s door.
“It was just one of those things that we came in and we were all sitting there hanging out and didn’t even think to lock the door,” said Christopher Korthaus, a first-year in business marketing and a Paterson Hall resident who had his wallet stolen while staying in a female friend’s room that night.
Korthaus does not think that Baker East is at fault for the thief getting into the dorm.
“People walk in and out of every dorm building. Anyone can really come in anywhere. It’s not just Baker East, it could’ve happened anywhere on campus. It was our fault for not locking the door,” Korthaus said.
The police have contacted the victims to tell them they have a suspect, but no officer has told the victims if their missing belongings will be recovered, Korthaus said.
“We have no idea what’s going to be returned, if anything, so I just got a new driver’s license, new BuckID and a new credit card,” Korthaus said.
Morman said no public safety notice was sent out because the crime was not reported until later in the day so it was a “matter of timing,” and the particular theft was also not seen as a “continuing concern to the campus community.”
Morman advised, however, that students be extra cautious about letting people in behind them when entering their building.