Tiffany Souers: Killer in Custody?

As the mournful sound of bagpipes marked the passing of Clemson junior Tiffany Marie Souers in St Louis, Missouri, investigators in South Carolina were awaiting the DNA results that will profile her killer. Tiffany was found by her former roommate and the roommate’s boyfriend around 1:30 pm last Friday on the bedroom floor of her off-campus apartment. Otherwise clad only in a brassiere, she had been strangled with her bathing suit top. No obvious defense wounds were detected on her body, and there were no signs of forced entry nor of a struggle in her apartment. Results of a sexual assault test have not yet been revealed. Investigators have kept other information and evidence collected close to the vest. They have, however, acknowledged that there are “persons of interest” who are being investigated and expressed confidence that the case will be solved.

In addition to DNA found at the scene, detectives took several items into evidence including Tiffany’s computer and cell phone. Her cell phone records have been acquired and a dumpster at her complex was seized. Early reports indicated that Tiffany did not have a boyfriend, but prosecutor Bob Ariail declined to comment when asked to confirm that detail. It was also reported that Tiffany was believed to have been killed around 1:30 am after having been dropped off around 11 pm at her apartment by friends, whom she allegedly told she planned to stay in and watch tv. I’m curious as to where this time of death originated; the coroner stated that it did not come from him. Working with her computer and cell phone records, investigators have compiled a timeline accounting for Tiffany’s whereabouts until 12:03 am.

The Times and Democrat included in a recent story a good description of The Reserve apartment complex and the habits and activities of its mostly student residents:

Souers’ building is in the back of a sprawling three-story apartment complex about three miles from campus. Orange tiger paws representing Clemson’s mascot are painted on the pavement and students tan at the pool, exercise at the community center during all hours of the night and routinely leave their doors unlocked.”Sometimes we were bad and left keys under the mat,” said Kimberly Perry, 21, who will be a senior in the fall. “It was just kind of shocking. That kind of thing doesn’t happen around here very often.”Souers’ ground-level apartment is down a narrow hallway that is dark even during the daylight hours. It opens away from the complex’s center to a parking lot, which is bordered by a construction site.

It kind of paints the picture of these students as an easy mark for burglary if not more serious violent crimes.

I began this entry more than 48 hours ago, and now it’s taken me so long to complete it that there’s been another development in the case. Being timely is nearly impossible during summer vacation. Bear with me.

Late Thursday, Ariail held another press conference, revealing that photographs of the suspect and his vehicle will be released to the public on Friday. Arial explained that the photographs, candid shots that portray the suspect engaging in a transaction that links him to Tiffany Souers after her murder, are currently being enhanced. Investigators hope that someone will recognize the suspect by physical and/or behavioral characteristics depicted in the photos. Meanwhile, a specialized tip-line is being set up to handle calls regarding the suspect.

Ariail made several intriguing comments throughout the press conference:

  • “I think there’s some indications that this crime is similar to a lot of unreported crimes that may occur on a college campus.”
  • Authorities believe the suspect is young but have no reason to believe he is a student. They believe he is still in the area.
  • Mr. Ariail would not confirm or deny whether anything was stolen from Ms. Souers’ apartment.
  • It isn’t believed that the suspect has much of a criminal record.
  • Questioned about the delay in releasing the photos, Ariail expressed confidence that the suspect wouldn’t flee. When asked why, he replied, “Trust me.”

Maybe I’m misreading things, but it’s looking like the man who murdered Tiffany Souers may already be in police custody. How could Mr. Ariail be so confident that the suspect would not flee? Perhaps, it’s because he knows that they already have their man jailed on other charges. So why the release of the photographs and request for tips from the public? They could be dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s — looking for any and all information that will tie their suspect to Tiffany’s murder and perhaps other assaults. One has to ask where the DNA came from; the coroner said that there was no sign of sexual assault, but a rape kit was done anyway, results of which have not yet been made public. Did Tiffany put up a fight? Were skin cells found under her fingernails? There were no signs of a struggle in the apartment and no apparent defense wounds on her body. Neighbors have stated that they noticed nothing unusual the night of Tiffany’s murder, relating that her apartment was quiet. Did the perpetrator somehow render her unconscious before killing her? Perhaps, the DNA profile came from this other assault in Tiffany’s apartment complex — a rape that occurred in April.

(Greenville-AP) June 2, 2006 – Authorities say a man living in the same apartment complex where a Clemson University student was found strangled last week has been charged with a rape a month earlier.

An arrest warrant says Central Police arrested 25-year-old Stephen David Kudika Junior on Wednesday and charged him with first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges for an attack at The Reserve Apartments on April 20th.

It is the same apartment complex where 20-year-old Tiffany Souers lived. Souers’ former roommate found her body inside her apartment last Friday. Authorities say she had been strangled with a bikini top.

The Greenville News reports on its Web site that prosecutors refused to say if Kudika was linked in any way to Souers.

If that is the case, the prosecutor needs more evidence tying Kudika to the crime. Identification of him as the man photographed making a transaction which ties him to Tiffany Souers after her murder could be a crucial piece. If he is the perpetrator, I certainly hope that they have additional and more conclusive evidence against him.

Update: 2:30 pm

WIS-10 provides a little more information on Stephen David Kudika, Jr., who was released from custody yesterday on a $30,000 bond.

Kudika is a graduate student at Clemson who worked at the campus recreation center. School spokeswoman Robin Denny says he’s on interim suspension and is not allowed on campus.

Bolte Kudikia told The Associated Press the allegations are false and says her son didn’t know to Souers.

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