Columbus State University Police have expanded the investigation of a 50-year-old downtown restaurant owner who was charged Monday with the rape of a student in her dorm room, Chief Rus Drew said Tuesday.
Larry Gene Kirkland, who is being held in the Muscogee County Jail without bond pending a Wednesday Recorder’s Court hearing, was charged in connection to an alleged rape that happened early Friday morning, CSU officials said.
When CSU police announced Kirkland’s arrest, they requested information on similar assaults that may have occurred in the downtown area. As of noon Tuesday, university police had received more than two dozen calls from women, Drew said. The calls range from general information to specific allegations, Drew said.
“The claims are about possible sexual assaults of themselves or friends,” Drew said.
Never miss a local story.
CSU Police are investigating those leads, Drew said.
Kirkland owns Picasso Pizza and is the manager of The Uptown Tap, a bar in the 1000 block, CSU Police said.
Many of allegations center on The Uptown Tap, Drew said.
“There have been no additional charges at this time,” he said.
Kirkland is being represented by Columbus defense attorney Stacey Jackson. Jackson said his client will likely not waive his Recorder’s Court hearing.
“I need to find out what the CSU Police have been investigating,” Jackson said. “We do know they have executed search warrants on his business and residence.”
Both the bar and restaurant are located in the 1000 block of Broadway, separated by a courtyard. Kirkland lives in a downtown loft off the courtyard between the two businesses.Search warrants were executed at Picasso Pizza and Kirkland’s residence, Drew confirmed.
CSU Police are working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Columbus Police Department, Drew said.
The victim, who knew Kirkland, told police she had drinks with him in the restaurant after it closed for the night. She claimed she had possibly been drugged prior to the alleged assault and did not remember anything until she woke the next day, according to CSU Police.
Through video surveillance, CSU Police identified Kirkland and placed him in the residence hall with the victim.
CSU has five downtown dorms and university police did not identify where the alleged attack happened.
Police are also investigating a potential link between Kirkland’s arrest and the arrest last week of an Auburn University chemistry lab technician accused of selling large quantities of the date rape drug GHB, Drew said.
“We are talking with authorities in Auburn,” Drew said.
Stephen Howard, 64, who works in the Auburn College of Engineering, was arrested Friday. Howard is facing federal charges that include treatment of controlled substance analogues; possession with intent to distribute controlled substances; and possession of a firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime, according to the criminal complaint.
“I have no idea why the police would think the two cases are related,” said Jackson, Kirkland’s attorney.
CSU Police are still requesting anyone who has information about this case or similar ones to call 706-507-8911 or 911.
The alleged attack in the CSU dorm was one of two downtown rapes reported to police last week.
A 32-year-old Columbus woman told the Columbus Police Department she was raped in a downtown Columbus parking lot in the 1100 block of First Avenue early Thursday, authorities said.
That case remains under investigation and there have been no arrests, said Columbus Police Maj. Gil Slouchick.
“There are two sexual assault investigations ongoing right now,” Slouchick said. “We are working with CSU Police to see if the two are related and we don’t believe they are.”
CSU Police and Columbus Police are coordinating efforts on both investigations, Slouchick said.
The woman told police the attack happened between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. She drove herself to St. Francis Hospital. Columbus Police were not notified until 11:30 p.m. that same day.