Purdue research associate accused of sexual assault on campus

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind - A postdoctoral research associate with Purdue University’s Department of Food Science faces felony charges in the sexual assault of an undergraduate student.

The victim called Purdue University Police around 1 a.m. Wednesday to report the incident.  She told police she had met 28-year-old Cheng Li on the social media app “WeChat” and arranged to meet with him at her apartment at the Hilltop Apartments.  Purdue Police Chief John Cox said the victim stated she met Li outside her apartment before the two went inside around 8 p.m. Tuesday.

“Had not met each other prior to last night’s encounter,” Cox said.  “Had communicated with each other through the chat app.”

Inside the apartment, the victim said Li tried to force himself on her multiple times.

“He would try to press himself on her, kiss her, grab her, fondle her,” Cox said.  “She would push him away, pull away.  She would get away from him, move to another part of the apartment.”

The victim also told police Li pushed her down onto her bed and removed her shirt.  She said Li eventually left the apartment building after she repeatedly fought off his advances.  Several hours went by before the victim called a friend to come over to talk about what happened.

Cox said that friend was on his way to the apartment when he was stopped by an Indiana State Police Trooper for speeding.  When the friend told the Trooper why he was speeding, the Trooper followed the friend to the victim’s apartment to confirm the story.  The Trooper then assisted the victim in reporting the incident to Purdue police around 1 a.m.

The report prompted a campus-wide alert to all Purdue students and faculty.

Cox said Cheng Li had been gone for hours by the time officers arrived at the apartment.  But, they knew where to find him because of his connection to Purdue University as a Research Associate.  Officers located Li at his West Lafayette home around 4 a.m. and arrested him without incident.

Cheng Li was booked into the Tippecanoe County Jail just after 5 a.m. on preliminary charges of sexual battery and criminal confinement, both level 6 felonies.

As Purdue Pplice continue investigating the case, Cox says the incident carries a strong warning about meeting potential dates on social media.

“Those that use social media and choose to connect with others on social media need to be careful,” Cox said.  “Meet people in public places and do things that will ensure their safety should the situation go awry.”

The case comes as Purdue police saw a sharp increase in reported rapes in 2015.  Purdue police crime statistics showed 28 reported to the department in 2015, up from 9 in 2014.  Those numbers do not include cases reported to other police agencies who may respond to incidents involving the Purdue campus.

The same database shows decreases in other dating and sexual crimes.  Reports of Dating Violence dropped from 15 in 2014 to 10 in 2015.  Reports of fondling dropped from 9 in 2014 to 7 in 2015.  Reports of stalking dropped from 7 in 2014 to 5 in 2015.

The Department of Education tracks crime statistics on college campuses across the nation.  If you would like to review numbers from a particular school, including reports from police agencies other than campus police, you can find that information here.