A series of threatening letters, including one ordering a female Harvard Summer School student to "visit me ASAP I intend to kill you," led University police in early August to search for a 17-year-old acquaintance, also a summer school student, who had been stalking her.
But along the way, the police ran into some unexpected interference--from the Harvard administration.
Since the alleged stalker was arrested six hours after the search began, the Office of the General Counsel and high-level Harvard administrators have begun an internal investigation into what University insiders are calling one of the most bizarre confrontations between police and administrators in recent memory.
Officials throughout the University aren't talking about the incident for the record. The boy is due back in court next week to face stalking charges.
According to the district attorney's office as well as internal University documents obtained by The Crimson, Harvard administrators repeatedly refused to turn over the accused boy to the Harvard police--even though those same administrators had called to alert HUPD to the letters and other incidents of stalking.
The district attorney's office and police say University officials tried to prevent officers from talking to the girl to find out if she felt threatened. Harvard administrators also moved the boy to several different locations around the University in an apparent effort to impede the police investigation into the stalking, authorities say.
Things got so bad that the Cambridge Assistant District Attorney on-call, David Yanetti, called Lowell House Master William H. Bossert late at night to order Bossert to turn the suspect over to police at once.
"In my discussions with Bossert and other administrators, the attitude of the Harvard officials was that this was just 'teenage hijinks,'--those were the words they used with me," Yanetti says. "But as a prosecutor I know that death threats like these should always be taken seriously, and that's what the Harvard police and the D.A.'s office were trying to do.
"There are situations that can be handled in-house but this was absolutely not one of them."
The girl's mother agrees.
She has written letters to Harvard officials, including President Neil L. Rudenstine, and has hired a lawyer to let the University know how she feels.
"Harvard University Summer School was remiss in many of the ways they treated our daughter during and after the stalking incident. Her safety was compromised and her concerns were minimized," she wrote Harvard Police Chief Paul E. Johnson in an August letter.
"We always felt that Harvard was very busy and doing an excellent job of protecting [the boy's] interests and had very little interest in the welfare and well-being of the victim," she wrote. "The Harvard Police...were quite the opposite."
For example, Elizabeth C. Hewitt, the director of the secondary school students' summer program, deemed the girl's fear of her stalker serious enough to move her to a new room. But authorities say Hewitt still would not let the police talk with the frightened teenager.
Police sources say Hewitt would not give officers the girl's room location. The summer program director also reportedly told the girl that notifying Harvard police "would not be necessary."