Student who failed to stop rape of girl, 7, walks free

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The Independent Online
THERE WILL be passion and grief aplenty when a 20-year-old student goes on trial for the rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in Las Vegas today.

But the real anger over the case is being felt 400 miles away in Berkeley, where the defendant's mind-bogglingly insensitive best friend is facing little short of a lynching from colleagues at the University of California.

While the suspected murderer, Jeremy Strohmeyer, has had a relatively quiet time of it in pre-trial custody in Nevada, his erstwhile high-school buddy, David Cash, has been ostracised, spat at, threatened with expulsion from the Berkeley campus and told he can expect his life henceforth to be "a living hell".

Cash was with Strohmeyer on the night of the murder, which took place 15 months ago in the toilet of a slot-machine arcade in the Nevada desert. He has not been accused of complicity, though he did absolutely nothing to stop it. According to prosecutors, he walked away from the assault after it started, told nobody about it and later reacted to a confession offered by his friend by asking if the girl had been sexually aroused before she died.

Asked recently by the Los Angeles Times if he felt sorry for Sherrice Iverson's death, he said: "I'm not going to get upset over somebody else's life. I just worry about myself first. I'm not going to lose sleep over someone's problems."

Not only was the case not interfering with life as a nuclear engineering student, he declared, but if anything it was making it "easier ... to score with women".

The residents of the all-female floor immediately below Cash's dormitory room have been less than charmed by such remarks. In fact, they have stopped talking to him altogether.

So has most of the student body at Berkeley. He has been asked to leave parties, admonished by a fraternity official and glared at with unfathomable contempt by all and sundry.

Last week, a group of 75 protesters travelled to Berkeley from the Los Angeles area, where both Cash and Strohmeyer grew up, to demand his expulsion and arraignment on criminal charges.

"David could have stopped my baby being killed, and what did he do?" fumed Sherrice's mother Yolanda Manuel. "I will get justice."

Justice authorities, however, say it is unlikely that Cash will be charged, and Berkeley officials see no opportunity to expel him since he has done nothing wrong in connection with the campus.

Some students and university teachers have expressed concern about what they see as the lynch-mob mentality, saying it would be wrong to compound Cash's appalling behaviour with hostility and violence.

Cash, meanwhile, has barricaded himself into his room, refusing to talk to reporters.

Last week he sent an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle. In it he claimed he was "completely ignorant" of the circumstances surrounding Sherrice's death, a claim that apparently contradicts his grand jury testimony and has only enraged his detractors further.