GSU suspends student being investigated in off-campus rapes

GSU suspends student being investigated in off-campus rapes

DeKalb police say they are investigating a 30-year-old now-suspended Georgia State University student as a suspect in four rape cases. 

The location of each alleged rape hasn’t been released, but two are believed to have happened at a DeKalb park after the women were kidnapped, according to warrants released to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

Dominic Lawton, a 30-year-old reported U.S. Air Force vet and martial arts “expert,” was arrested last week on charges of rape and kidnapping in one case. Police spokeswoman Shiera Campbell said Wednesday the agency couldn’t comment on the other three cases, which are under investigation, but charges haven’t been filed. 

The warrants say Lawton kidnapped a prostitute from the Super 8 motel on Snapfinger Road near Lithonia and raped her at Exchange Park off I-20. The crime resembled a May 2016 rape when a prostitute was also reported being kidnapped and raped at a DeKalb park, the documents say. 

Lawton was also accused in an attempted rape with similar circumstances in the city of Marietta in 2012, though the charges were later dropped. 

Lawton’s attorney, Elizabeth Taxel, said Wednesday she was just beginning her investigation into Lawton's case. But she said Lawton “maintains his innocence.” 

Lawton has attended the GSU Atlanta campus since this summer and went to GSU’s Perimeter College for two years before that, the university told The AJC. He has been placed on "interim suspension," GSU said Thursday.

On social media, Lawton lists a number of professional pursuits, including his aspirations for acting. His page is full of posts about martial arts and musings on the difficulties of dating. 

The most recent alleged rape is said to have taken place after 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 14.The victim had received a call and text messages from a man requesting her “services.” 

Once the man arrived, he allegedly showed a gun, forced her into a red pickup truck and raped her at Exchange Park, first laying out a towel. She was dropped off at the hotel afterward. 

In the warrants, the detective pointed out the May 2016 case, in which the victim also spoke of a man stealing her away in a red pickup and laying down a towel at a park. Afterward, she was taken to a restaurant and she escaped, the documents say. 

Police reportedly identified Lawton as the suspect in the September case by the phone number. They also traced a red pickup truck to him, according to the warrants. 

In the 2012 attempted rape case, the pickup was yellow.

According to that warrant, he pulled the knife on the victim on Franklin Road in Marietta and forced her into the truck on Dec. 27, 2012. He later admitted to police he drove her “against her will” before she jumped from the moving truck. 

He was accused of aggravated assault with intent to rape and kidnapping. 

But the charges were dropped in May 2014. Cobb County Assistant District Attorney Charles Boring, who has since become known for prosecuting the Ross Harris hot-car murder case, filed to dismiss the charges. Boring cited “insufficient evidence and refusal to cooperate by the victim.” 

The district attorney’s office declined to elaborate on the decision Wednesday morning.

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