New Orleans police are investigating whether the Tulane University philosophy student accused in a series of home break-ins also is connected to three sexual assaults near the school’s Uptown campus.
Oliver Jerde, 22, remains in jail ahead of a Thursday bail hearing on four burglary counts.
A police report states that a Sex Crimes Unit detective has obtained a warrant for Jerde’s DNA, apparently in an effort to determine whether he had any connection to two rapes and a sexual battery that police say happened in the same area at about the same time as a series of disturbing home invasions.
The common threads in several of the incidents police have booked Jerde for so far appear to be early morning home break-ins, the suspect’s consumption of alcohol and young, female victims. But authorities have not accused Jerde of sexual assault — a development that would represent a major shift in the case.
Police Department spokesman Tyler Gamble said Jerde has not been accused of any sex crime but has not been ruled out as a suspect in any of the cases. Analysis of a swab of DNA from Jerde’s cheek is still pending.
The first two rapes reportedly happened late on the night of Jan. 15 or early on the morning of Jan. 16. In both of those incidents, the victims told police they went to a bar and then woke up to find a strange man having sex with them.
Police earlier had linked those incidents, in the 7600 block of Oak Street and the 1700 block of South Carrollton Avenue, to the series of home invasions. Authorities now acknowledge that both of those incidents involved rapes.
In one incident, a 22-year-old woman in the 7600 block of Oak told police she had gone to a bar and later woke up to find a man on top of her, having nonconsensual sexual intercourse. Another woman, 20, told police that she went to a bar the same night in the Carrollton area, then woke up in a strange apartment to find a strange man having sex with her.
Police had previously disclosed both of those incidents but seemed to suggest that they were only home invasions and that no women had been harmed. A police commander said in a Jan. 18 briefing to reporters that officers were searching for a single suspect in connection with five incidents.
“We’re looking at approximately five incidents that could potentially be related, with regards to home invasions and females being asleep in their residence,” 2nd District Cmdr. Shaun Ferguson said.
Responding to a reporter’s question on that occasion, Ferguson said the victims had not been harmed, “but it’s still uncomfortable to have a stranger in your residence.”
Gamble, the Police Department spokesman, said Ferguson was referring to three other incidents that did not involve a rape.
“The confusion was unintentional,” Gamble said. “I think that it could have been clearer, on the incidents that we were looking at ... that the three home invasions were what was the largest focus” of the Jan. 18 briefing.
Meanwhile, police also are probing a separate case of sexual battery. They disclosed that investigation in a “probable cause” statement for Jerde’s arrest in connection with a simple burglary in the 1100 block of Broadway, not far from Tulane’s campus, about 3 a.m. Jan. 18.
The victim in the burglary told police she woke up to find a man standing over her bed. When she asked him why he was inside her residence, he claimed they had met earlier at the Boot, a popular watering hole for Tulane students.
The woman said she told the intruder — whom she described as a college-aged white man with a round face, wearing a hoodie — to leave.
On the same morning and just a block away, police said, a sexual battery occurred. They have given few details about that case, other than to say in a police report that the description of the perpetrator matched that of the Broadway burglar.
Jerde was arrested Thursday after startling a young woman who was asleep in her house in the 800 block of Pine Street, police said. Four days earlier, police had encountered Jerde on the street just after another home burglary.
Police said in an arrest report that shortly after a burglar startled a woman awake by placing his hand over her mouth in the 1000 block of Lowerline Street about 3:45 a.m. Jan. 17 — the night before the reported sexual battery — an officer stopped Jerde and questioned him.
Jerde, who lives in the 800 block of Lowerline, claimed he had been inside his house during the break-in. Police took down his information and let him go. Gamble said they did not have enough information at the time to connect him to the crime.
Just over an hour later, police allege, a 21-year-old woman woke up to find Jerde standing by the dresser in her bedroom in the 1200 block of Lowerline. When confronted, police said, he claimed he was “with Emma; she lives in the back.” As the woman told him to leave, police said, Jerde pulled out a bread knife and pointed it at her.
Another resident of the house told police she was at her boyfriend’s place at the time of the break-in. But when she checked her Facebook account later that morning, she said, she discovered someone had posted numerous comments to her profile about 4:40 a.m. One comment made reference to masturbation and another to videos of rape, police said in a report.
While she was at her boyfriend’s house, the woman said, her laptop was at her residence, open to her Facebook profile.
In addition to the disturbing Facebook posts, the woman told police, someone also made a number of “friend” requests — including one to Jerde.
A judge found no probable cause last week for a count of aggravated assault against Jerde springing from the bread knife police said he pointed at the woman in the 1200 block of Lowerline. He currently faces two counts of aggravated burglary and two counts of simple burglary. A magistrate commissioner is set to determine his bail in a hearing Thursday.
His lawyer, James Lawrence, declined to comment last week.