A Columbus Recorder’s Court judge on Wednesday denied bond for a downtown Columbus business owner accused of raping a 22-year-old woman he knew in her Columbus State University dorm room.
The rape charge against Larry Gene Kirkland, 50, was bound over to Superior Court by Judge Michael Cielinski after a more than 30-minute hearing in which Kirkland pleaded not guilty.
During the testimony, Columbus State University Police Sgt. Brett Stanelle told the court that Kirkland said during an interview that he had sex with the woman and it was consensual.
“My client denies making that statement,” said defense attorney Stacey Jackson. “ I can pretty much guarantee you that they don’t have a written statement or that alleged comment on audio or videotape.”
Kirkland owns Picasso Pizza and is the manager of The Uptown Tap, a bar in the 1000 block.
The woman claims she had two shots — a cocktail called an Irish Car Bomb, according to testimony — after getting off work downtown, police said. She claimed she was drugged and did not remember anything until she woke up naked in her bed the next day, according to Stanelle’s testimony.
The woman did not testify but told police during the investigation that she tried to piece together what happened by talking to friends and Kirkland.
“She said Mr. Kirkland told her 'things had gotten freaky',” Stanelle said.
Kirkland told police the victim had bitten him and the officer observed a bite mark on Kirkland’s chest, Stanelle said.
The woman had two bruises on her left arm and one bruise on her left thigh, according to testimony.
Columbus State Police arrested Kirkland on Monday after video placed Kirkland and the victim in the downtown dorm room between 5:15 a.m. and 6:39 a.m. Friday, according to Stanelle’s testimony.
A rape examination was done on the victim and her blood sample was sent to the state crime lab for analysis, the officer said. Results from the blood test are still pending.
The victim had been in contact via phone with her boyfriend during the night, according to testimony.
“It is obvious — you can see the writing on the wall,” Jackson said. “The young lady has a boyfriend who lives out of town and she may have had an event with somebody else.”
CSU police say the investigation is ongoing. After Kirkland's arrest on Monday, the department put out a call for anyone with information on assaults in the area similar to the one alleged to come forward. As of noon Wednesday, more than two dozen women had called CSU police with various accounts of downtown assaults.
Jackson said the arrest was premature because search warrants on Kirkland’s business and residence did not produce any substance known as a “date rape drug.”
“Why not wait for the blood work before issuing the arrest warrant to see if it corroborated her story?” Jackson said.
Jackson also alleged that Columbus State University had another motive for bringing the rape charge against Kirkland. The Uptown Tap bar and the building are owned by David Wolf.
“CSU wanted to buy that building and Mr. Wolf refused to sell it to them,” Jackson said. “This is somewhat personal.”
A Columbus State University spokesman said the claim by Jackson is baseless.
“I can assure you that at least since 2007, neither the university nor Foundation Properties, Inc., has had any conversations with anyone about buying the buildings that currently house the Uptown Tap and/or Picasso Pizza,” said John Lester, assistant vice president for University Relations. “I checked this with the executive director of Foundation Properties Inc., who has been in that role since 2007.”