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ELKHART -- The woman who reported a sexual assault near Goshen College's campus on Jan. 18 is facing criminal charges after confessing to police that the incident didn't happen.
Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis T. Hill announced Monday that he will file an obstruction of justice charge, a Class D felony, against Jessica De La Vega, 19, of Elkhart.
Investigation into the reported assault began when De La Vega told Goshen police that she was abducted by a white man with a knife on the campus of Goshen College, where she was a student at the time.
She reported that the man demanded she drive to the parking area of the Rieth Interpretive Center across from Shanklin Park, where he raped her.
Hill estimated that the Goshen Police Department, emergency medical personnel, detectives and evidence specialists had logged around 200 man-hours into the investigation, including a detailed sketch of the suspect in accordance with De La Vega's description.
She described the suspect as a white man in his 20s with short, dirty blond hair and a medium build.
"People take these allegations very, very seriously," Hill said. Though criminal acts range across the spectrum, "certainly at the top of the heap would be abduction of a child or a youngster ... a college student. You hear something about that and put everything down and get to work."
Red flags started popping up within the past 10 days when detectives noticed glaring inconsistencies in De La Vega's story, most notably the fact that she was in another county with a friend at the time the attack was reported.
When approached by Goshen Police detectives, she admitted that the rape didn't happen.
"False reports, false allegations, lying for whatever reason to this magnitude can't be tolerated," Hill said at a press conference Monday afternoon, adding that De La Vega is considered innocent until proven guilty.
He said GPD's ability to come to the conclusion that the report was false was "basically good, old-fashioned police work."
Hill said further details of the investigation will not be disclosed until De La Vega's trial, the date of which has not been set.
In a letter to Goshen College students, staff and faculty, Dean of Students Bill Born wrote that the college "intends to continue to move forward with prior security decisions made during the fall 2010, such as entry control system implementation for residential housing units, ongoing campus education and enhanced campus security for the 2011-12 school year."
Born said the administration also plans to reassess the proposed security measures "because we recognize that some students will expect some reconsideration of these steps."
Richard Aguirre, director of public relations, confirmed that De La Vega is no longer enrolled at the college.
If found guilty of obstruction of justice, De La Vega can face up to three years in prison. Hill said an average sentence for this type of charge is 18 months.
As of Monday evening, De La Vega had not been arrested.