Video: The apology

By Edie Magnus Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/27/2007 3:18:25 PM ET 2007-01-27T20:18:25

This report aired May 19, 2005, and was updated and rebroadcast on January 27, 2006.

Liz Seccuro has struggled hard to heal. 21 years ago, she says a stranger suddenly and violently attacked her.  And now, just as suddenly, he’s back. This fall, a letter arrived at her home out of the blue. In October 1984, "I harmed you”, it read.  “I stand prepared...to begin to set right the wrong I’ve done.”

Liz Seccuro: Everyone grows up with the idea of a monster in the closet. But my monster has a name and a face. And now he’s out of the closet.

When the man whom Liz Seccuro calls a monster forced himself back into her life, he may never have imagined what she would do next. His startling letter to her about that night years earlier left her with a choice: forgive him and move on or take action of a far different sort. 

You’ll want to ask yourself: what would you do?

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: He was clearly tormented by this.

Seccuro: As well he should be.

Liz, 39, says the woman you see today is very different from the girl she once was: a child who grew up feeling happy and safe. 

Seccuro: [I had a] very happy childhood. Very sheltered childhood.

Liz’s dad: She was my daddy’s little girl. And mommy’s too.

The only child of a transit worker and a secretary, Liz attended an all girls Catholic high school in Yonkers, just outside New York City,  where she was a member of the drama club, the student council, and a cheerleader. 

Seccuro: I was a huge overachiever.  I don’t think I ever got an A-.

Graduating first in her class in 1984, Liz weighed several college scholarship offers.  She selected the prestigious University of Virginia. 

Seccuro: At the time, I believe their English Department was the #1 rated in the country, and that’s why I went.

Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA is considered by some to be one of the nation’s top public universities.  For the 17-year-old  from Yonkers, it was a time full of promise: Liz in fact  was the first person in her family to go to college.

In September 1984, 17-year-old Liz and her best friend Meghan, who would be attending Trinity University in Washington D.C., took the big car trip south together, along with both sets of parents.

Meghan, best friend: We were talking about the future and how just it was gonna be really exciting.  And you know, the people we were gonna meet.

Seccuro: I went to an all girls high school so I guess my first experience with the opposite sex was in college. I’d never even sat in a classroom with a boy before.

Magnus: Is it safe to say then that when you went to college you were somewhat inexperienced?

Seccuro: Inexperienced, yes.  Was I a virgin when I came to UVA?  Absolutely.

Like many schools, the social life at UVA revolved around its many fraternities and sororities.  And that fall, “rush” was in full swing.  Just 4 weeks after arriving on campus, a dorm friend, looking to make a good impression at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, leaned on Liz to come with him to a party there. 

Seccuro: A really lovely young man who happened to be gay.  So no safer date existed.  He said you know maybe they’ll let me in.  Maybe I’ll go further in ‘rush’ if I have a pretty girl with me.  He’s like, please please please will you go with me?  I’m like, of course I’ll go.  That’s what you do.  That’s what friends do.

Liz remembers walking into a familiar college scene. There was the requisite clamor of rock music blasting.  A foosball game was in full swing, and there was the acrid scent of beer wafting through the room.  No surprise: a 1984 yearbook photo showcases the fraternity’s party-hearty spirit.

Magnus: Were you drinking?

Seccuro: Yes.  I had one full beer and I had re-filled it.  Was I drinking heavily?  No, absolutely not.  I was completely aware of my surroundings.

The hour drew late and Liz wanted to leave, but before going she says she was coaxed into joining a tour of the frat house. When, she got upstairs, Liz says she was soon separated from the friend who’d brought her there.

Seccuro: And two of the brothers said, well while you’re waiting for your friend, can we fix you something to drink?  And I said, sure.  And they’re like, We call this our ‘House Special.’  It was like a pale green drink, and it was in one of those clear tumblers.  It was something, you know, stronger than I was used to drinking at the time.

Magnus: It was clearly alcoholic.

Seccuro: Oh yeah. 

Liz says the mystery drink made her feel weird.

Seccuro: My arms and legs just didn’t feel quite - felt rubbery.  Or like that of a marionette.  You know, and yet I felt oddly panicky. And I thought, well, once my friend gets back, he can walk me home. That was my concern.  I didn’t want to walk the five minutes back to my dorm alone.  Because it wouldn’t be safe.

Magnus: You thought staying inside the fraternity would be safe.

Seccuro: Correct.

Not hardly.  In the midst of her panicked haziness, Liz says one of the frat brothers hovering in the background started trying to chat her up. 

Magnus: Did you know him?

Seccuro: No.

Magnus: Had you seem ‘em?

Seccuro: Never. Complete stranger to me.

Magnus: So then what happened?

Seccuro: He pulled me into his room. I tried—he had his arms around my waist from behind.  He pulled me down onto his lap.  I tried to get away. 

Magnus: You asked him to stop?

Seccuro: Absolutely.

But instead, Liz, who is slightly built, says the 6-foot-one fraternity brother turned off the light, ripped off her clothes and raped her. 

Seccuro: All I can say is it was it was just extremely painful. Violent.  The brain just protects you from something that is so horrible.  Mine happened cause I remember far too much. And at some point I think my brain said to my body, it’s okay.  Just shut down.  It’s okay to just fall asleep to, just be unconscious.  Because if I  remained conscious through the whole thing, it would have destroyed me.

The 17-year-old says she did not fully regain consciousness until the following morning - when she found herself across the room on a sofa.

Seccuro: I awoke naked wrapped in a bloody sheet, which I thought was vile and disgusting.  And then I realized that it was my own blood.

Remember—she’d been a virgin. In so many ways, Liz says she was never the same after that night.

Seccuro: It’s like you’re being killed.  And yet you still live.  And you live with the memory of it.  There were days where I almost wished I had died, so great is the shame, so great is the degradation and the humiliation.

Liz may not have had a chance to fight back then—but little did she know, she would—more than 20 years later.  And she’d be given the chance—by the alleged attacker himself.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: Was he there when you woke up?

Liz Seccuro: Yes.  Fully dressed.  Packing his backpack.  Off to class. Looked at me like nothing happened, and I’m naked in a bloody sheet.  And of course, I don’t want to say anything to him because I’m afraid he’s going to do it again.

Magnus: Did he say anything to you?

Seccuro: Yeah.  Just casual pleasantries.  Like, ‘Morning.  Off to class.  See ya.’

After he left, Liz rifled through his mail and learned his name: Beebe.  William Beebe, a 19-year-old sophomore from New York.

The dazed freshman says she walked out the frat house and headed for the local emergency room — almost a mile away.  Once there, she says she waited for hours but no doctor saw her.

Magnus: Did you show anyone your bruises?

Seccuro: Yeah.  I don’t think that they were ignoring me.  I think that, you know, people with graver injuries were presenting themselves at the time. And I just bailed. Went to my dorm and took, like, the the longest shower of my life.  I just wanted to feel clean again.

Word quickly spread around Liz’s dorm about the attack.

Elizabeth Ludwig, Liz’s former dorm mate: “Something’s wrong.  You need to come, you need to help.  Something’s wrong.

A number of girls, including then 21 year-old senior Elizabeth Ludwig, collected around the shaken freshman.

Ludwig: There were a lot of hushed tones.  “She said she was raped.  She said she was raped.”

They were sympathetic, she says, but privately skeptical.  Everybody knew about those high octane frat parties.

Ludwig: I think that I was not alone in—in wondering and casting doubt thinking—his just something that went a little too far?  Got a little bit out of your control perhaps?  And now you’re putting it together thinking you know I really shouldn’t have done that.  I’m a good girl, I want to save my reputation and so I’m going to be a victim.

Liz, meanwhile, turned to the person who knew her better than almost anyone—her best friend Meghan, a hundred miles away at Trinity University. 

Meghan, Liz's best friend: And so I said, “I’m coming down.” 

Meghan says when she arrived at Liz's door, she was stunned by what she saw.

Meghan: She was just huddled on her bed in the corner and just was—her arms wrapped around her legs and just sort of shivering and crying.

Meghan says she took Liz to the student health office where Liz was examined by an on duty nurse.

Seccuro: I just remember her saying words like, laceration, tearing.

Magnus: Did you report the incident to anyone at the university?

Seccuro: I did.

Liz says she filed a report with the UVA campus police—and met several times with the dean of students.  But she was immediately put off by the tone of those talks. 

Seccuro: He’s like, “Do you think you just had sex with this guy and you’re just embarrassed?”  No, no I don’t.  And he said to me, “Well, I spoke with him.  He said it was consensual.”  I mean, here’s this huge authority figure.  He is my parent away from home, as it were.  He tells me, “You know, you might want to take a semester off or think about transferring.”

Magnus: So what was the message that you were getting from the dean of students?

Seccuro: You don’t matter.  You need to be disposed of—and quickly.

Liz says the dean did offer her the option of bringing her own case against Beebe through the “University committee on students”—an internal, disciplinary hearing commonly reserved for kids who lie or cheat.   

Seccuro: I said absolutely not.  I’m not going to sit across the table from him and have students decide what?   To expel you? What could possibly be the punishment?  And I said, I’m not going through—what, this what Mickey Mouse court?

Magnus: you wanted him to be brought up on criminal charges.

Seccuro: Absolutely.

Magnus: Was he discouraging you from doing that?

Seccuro: No, he wasn’t discouraging me from doing it at all.  I think, though, that a 17-year-old whose just been brutally raped is not exactly making the right decisions.  I think  somebody had a duty to pick up the phone and call the police. 

But the prospect of bringing disciplinary charges against Beebe quickly became moot.  One week after the alleged frat party sexual assault, William Beebe withdrew from UVA.

Seccuro: It certainly wasn’t intimated at all that, you know, he was asked to leave.  He left of his own volition.

With that, dormmates like Elizabeth Ludwig, became convinced Liz’s rape charge was true after all.

Ludwig: It was as if he was running away from the issue and it would never be surfaced again.

9 days after the alleged rape, Liz had what she said was the most crushing conversation of all — with her mom and dad.  It was parents weekend.  They were gathered in the dean’s office.

Seccuro: They were sitting in his office and they were just weeping.

Liz’s dad: I was beside myself.  You can imagine.  I was just in—in another world, you know?  Trying to grasp all this.

Her father’s instinct was to pull his daughter out of UVA right then and there. 

Seccuro: I said absolutely not.  I worked really hard to be here.  And I haven’t done anything wrong.  And I’m going to stay.

Liz’s dad: So I laid down some ground rules to Liz.  I told her she’s got to call us every night.  And the first sign that she feels that she’s uncomfortable here, call me and I’ll fly down, and pull her out.

Seccuro: And so I decided, you know what?  I’m going to forget this ever happened.  I’m going to push it in the back of my mind.  I’m going to soldier on.

It wasn’t that easy, of course.  Liz says she was often listless and jumpy.  She gave 2 anonymous interviews during her college years to the school newspaper about being a victim of rape.

Seccuro: Telling my story, just telling my story.

But she did find enjoyment from joining a sorority.  Until one night, in her junior year when the girls ordered a pizza - as fate would have it, it was Liz who answered the door.

Seccuro: Doorbell rang.  I opened the door.  There he is.

It was William Beebe. The one time-university student was now a pizza delivery man in Charlottesville.

Magnus:  You recognized him right away?

Seccuro:  Right away, you don’t forget someone’s eyes. I just shoved the money at him and kind of grabbed the pizza and I literally thought my heart was going to pound out of my chest.

Magnus: Did you say anything to each other?

Seccuro: Absolutely not.

Magnus: So there was nothing to sort of indicate the recognition?

Seccuro: Oh he knew I knew who he was.  And I know he knew who I was.

Seeing Beebe again made Liz realize how traumatized she really was.  She graduated from UVA in 1988 -- but not with honors this time, not even close.  Still, Liz quickly found work in advertising. Then she too quickly jumped into a short and stormy first marriage with another UVA graduate.  One of many unfortunate choices, she now says, in a life that was somehow less than it could have been.

Seccuro: I was selling myself short.  I didn’t believe I was good enough.

Magnus: How often did you think of the assault?

Seccuro: The best it ever got for me was, you know, maybe once a week. It’s part of who I am.

Another consequence of the trauma, she says, was the onset of chronic panic attacks.

Michael Seccuro: She just out of the blue says, “I think I’m having a heart attack...”

It was a panic attack in 1997 — while she was dating Michael Seccuro, that compelled her to tell him about the rape.  Liz says it was always difficult when she had to talk about that chapter to a man she was interested in.

Seccuro: Like everyone else, will you run away from me?  Will you think I am trash, damaged in some way?

But Michael didn’t turn away.  They were married in 1999. By then she was a successful events planner—and he an investment banker.  They had a darling baby girl.  

Everything was going fine until September 8th, 2005. That’s when the couple was leaving their  home for a much needed vacation.  All that remained before they pulled out of the driveway was for Michael to get the mail.

Michael Seccuro, now husband: I gave it to her. And she’s going through the mail, and  just stops cold on this letter, just complete silence.

Seccuro: I didn’t have to open it.  But I did.  I could not breathe.

It was the last person in the world Liz would ever dream of hearing from, or wanted to hear from.

Seccuro: Nothing in life can prepare me for a shock like that.

Liz Seccuro tried as best she could to move beyond the trauma of one night 21 years ago that haunted her and changed her life—one that cost her everything, she says, and her alleged rapist, William Beebe, nothing. 

But last September it suddenly all came rushing back when Liz received a letter from him.

Liz Seccuro:  I knew within a nanosecond what was inside.  I didn’t even have to open it.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: When you say “I knew in a nanosecond what was inside”?

Seccuro: This was my rapist apologizing to me.  Plain and simple.  His conscience and karma finally caught up with him, and he is writing to say he’s sorry.

Michael Seccuro, husband: And she started crying. It started as a cry and it got to weeping.

Then through her burst of tears, Liz started reading...

Dear Elizabeth, In October 1984, I harmed you.  I can scarcely begin to understand the degree to which, through your eyes, my behavior has affected you in it’s wake. Still, I stand prepared to hear from you about just how, and in what ways, you’ve been affected, and to begin to set right the wrong I’ve done, and in any way you see fit.

At first it seemed like the validation she’d always been seeking.

Seccuro: He knows he did it.  I know he did it.  God knows he did it.  We’re all on the same page now.

But quickly these 3 little paragraphs unleashed a cascade of emotions.

Seccuro: Anger, regret, "Oh you stupid idiot."  Why didn’t you just admit to it then?  I was laughing, I was crying.  I just one big huge emotional, you know, grab bag at that point.

Magnus: Were you moved at all by his apparent anguish?  And his sincerity over making amends?

Seccuro:  I don’t want to seem heartless, but my answer is no.

Over the next several days, Liz carried the letter with her everywhere - even to the pool.

Seccuro: I would blast music and swim for hours.  And think about this letter.  I did this for days.  “What am I going to do?  What am I going to do?”

After a couple weeks of wondering whether to ignore him or respond, Liz decided to email him.

Seccuro: I remember saying, “I’m in receipt of your letter.  How can you live with yourself?”

And so began a remarkable correspondence between Liz and her alleged attacker.

Seccuro: I wanted to know who he was and why he did this.

She was intent on probing into the past.

Seccuro: I wanted to know who he was.  I wanted to know why he did this.

And he appeared just as anxious to answer

“Dear Liz, You asked me to write about how I lived with myself in the wake of this incident.  So I will... I always felt a tremendous guilt for the ways in which I imagined my conduct had damaged you, and for years too the only solution seemed to be the bottle, which worked less and less over time to assuage the guilt...”

Beebe wrote that his unrestrained drinking habit started well before the assault and only worsened afterward.

“After the incident, I was disgusted w/ myself... I took to understand that I’d caused an even bigger problem than I’d previously believed.  I felt like dying...”

Magnus: He doesn’t use the word rape initially.

Seccuro: No.  “Harmed.”  “The incident”  “What I did to you.”

Magnus: You wanted him to use it though, right?

Seccuro: Yeah.  I mean, why half apologize?  Own up to what you did.  Use the word.

But Beebe didn’t.

He did describe a sorry life. He’d never married, he wrote, nor had children—and his drunkenness had cost Beebe job after job, he wrote, before he finally committed to Alcoholics Anonymous years earlier.

“I did not know how I was going to set about repairing wrongs I believed I could never fully right, most especially in the situation with you, which haunted me most of all.  But I clung to the belief that what had worked in so many before me would work in me too...”

Repairing wrongs: Beebe was talking about the twelve steps AA members take in conjunction with staying sober.  Steps 8 and 9 deal with making amends to people one has harmed in the past.  That was why he’d reached out to her — the prospect of bring able to apologize, he wrote, was something he’d thought about for years. 

“It was the one thing that kept me coming to meetings, with the slimmest hope that somehow, some way, some day, we would be able to contact each other...”

Magnus: Do you give him any credit at all for having come forward after all these years and acknowledging what he did?

Seccuro: I think that it takes strength to admit to past wrongs.  I also think this is a man who has walked free for 20 years while I’ve struggled with this.

After all these years, she was still chafing that Beebe had never been held accountable at the time.  Why, she asked Beebe, had he abruptly left school just days after the assault?  Beebe explained that he’d been summoned to the office of the dean of students.

“He told me of the gravity of the situation from your point of view as he understood it, and from the University’s point of view regarding possible judicial proceedings... It was just too much to bear... A day or so later I withdrew from UVA, unwilling to step up to the plate.”

But Liz thought Beebe still wasn’t stepping up.  He still hadn’t used the word rape—and she was particularly put off when he implied in a subsequent email that at some points that night, all was calm—even pleasant between them.

“We started to make out in my room awhile...There was no fight and it was all over in short order.  When we awoke in the morning... you walked home.”

This relatively benign version of events left Liz furious.  Two and a half months after Beebe first contacted her, she fired off an especially embittered e-mail:

“I did not get to choose being raped and having my virginity taken from me so brutally,” she wrote.  “...I am angry that your account is so very different than mine, which is burned into my memory as if it happened yesterday... I feel raped and betrayed a second time. I have the most difficulty in your careful choice of words... ‘harm,’ ‘what I did to you,’ et al. Don’t really feellike coming clean to me. I suppose it’s a difficult word to utter, or even write, for you.”

A few hours later, Beebe responded.

“Dear Liz,  I want to make clear that I’m not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you.  I did.”

Magnus: What was it like to get that e-mail?

Seccuro: Some relief, sure.  But I mean, I knew all along what he was talking about from the time he sent the letter.

Magnus: Were you trying to get him to use the word so that you could then go to the police and get them to come after him?

Seccuro: No.  I needed the word for me.

It turns out she needed more than that.  And soon enough, the letter seeking forgiveness would be turned over as evidence of a crime.

The way Liz Seccuro saw fit to handle William Beebe’s apology for allegedly raping her in 1984 was probably not what he had in mind.

Liz Seccuro: I was in my office.  It was just an ordinary day.  And I just picked up the phone.  Didn’t share it with family.  There was no plan.  Just thought, “What the hell?  Maybe they can help me. 

“They” are the Charlottesville police.  Now December 2005, Liz was calling them to report a crime that had taken place 21 years earlier.

Without knowing where it would lead, Liz left a message for the police chief.

Seccuro: I’m like—“I was raped in 1984.  And the rapist just sent me a letter.  And we’ve been e-mailing.  And he admits to the crime.  And I don’t think you have jurisdiction over—“ I was just babbling.  I’m like, that man is never gonna call me back.  Sure enough, he called.

Tim Longo, police chief, Charlottesville: What else would I do other than to take her seriously and we did.

Tim Longo has been the chief of police chief in  Charlottesville for the past 5 years.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: What made you believe her?

Longo: Her sense of urgency and sincerity.  And also a sense that, “Hey, something wrong has happened to me—and nobody seems to wanna help.”

Chief Longo asked Liz to come in to file a complaint - which she promptly did.

Longo: There’s no statute of limitations on any felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Magnus: Including rape.

Longo: Including rape and rape is a felony crime.

Magnus: So you can investigate this no matter how many years after the fact.

Longo: That’s correct.

Seccuro: He said, “I’m gonna assign two detectives to you.  You’re gonna be hearing from them tomorrow.” And he goes, “You’re very brave to come forward and do this.”  And didn’t really know what “this” was.  I guess the implication that I was gonna be pressing charges, like really hadn’t wrapped my brain around that.  But if I was gonna do this, I’m gonna do this to the end.

The detectives took Liz around the UVA campus and, says the chief, were impressed by her recall of what had happened.  But the investigation hit some roadblocks:  there was no record attesting to Liz’s trip to the hospital emergency room.   And the student health center where she’d been examined destroys its records after 10 years.  And the report she filed with the campus police had somehow disappeared.  Chief Longo says there’s no evidence anything came of it anyway. 

Longo: I’m not aware of any police investigation that was conducted at that time.

Detectives did unearth one report which corroborates part of her story.  Undertaken for the dean of students, it was kept under seal all these years.  Liz herself received a copy only recently.  Three witnesses from the frat party that night offered some disturbing accounts of the horror she’d endured:  one told of seeing a young man, presumably Beebe with “blood on the thigh of his jeans.”  The same witness also spoke of seeing a sleeping woman, presumably Liz, “partially exposed” and “bleeding in the vaginal area.”  Another witness said  there “may have been drugs” in that green mystery drink that Liz said made her feel all rubbery. 

Longo: There was at least some documentation that memorialized that this incident occurred or that it was reported to have occurred.

And of course, detectives had the letter Beebe had sent Liz and the e-mails that followed.

Longo: They make pretty clear that, you know, something happened which I’m apologetic for.

In January 2006, four weeks after Liz filed a report with the Charlottesville police, Chief Longo placed a call to the Las Vegas police.  They then arrested  William Beebe, now a real estate agent there.  And Liz Seccuro’s private nightmare suddenly became a very public drama.

Her story was big news in Virginia. And then it went national—appearing in People magazine, provoking many questions about her unrelenting anger and her unwillingness to put the past behind her.

Magnus: Why not give him a break?

Seccuro: What for? So it’s not a crime if you apologize for it? People try and get me to say, “Oh, yeah, I feel badly for him.”  No, I don’t.

Magnus: Did it make any difference to you at all that he was telling you that he was an alcoholic?

Seccuro: Doesn’t make it right.  “Oh, I was a drunk.  Therefore, I raped you.” What am I supposed to say?  “I’m sorry for the pain and suffering that you’ve suffered as an addict”?  What about the pain and suffering you caused me? I mean, in my heart of hearts, I have forgiven him for what he did to me.

Magnus: But you still want to see him be made to pay for it?

Seccuro: Absolutely.  It’s about him paying his debt to society and to me.  It’s about me moving on with my life.

Elizabeth Ludwig read about Liz’s life in People—and says she was flooded with memories and regrets.  She’s the former dorm mate, remember, who in 1984 was skeptical of Liz’s rape charge. 

Elizabeth Ludwig, former dorm mate: Reading her story and seeing her face, I wish I could have been able to say, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t believe you 100% when you came forward at the very start.

And in Las Vegas, another woman found herself having second thoughts about someone she knew only a little.

Lyna Reyes, Beebe's officemate: He struck me as a  courteous man and very personable and professional.

Lyna Reyes is a receptionist at the real estate firm where Beebe worked for a few months as an agent.  She was stunned to hear he’d been arrested.

Reyes: I didn’t believe that he was capable of that.  In retrospect, I could see where the times I would get to speak with him you could almost see that haunted look in his eyes like he had a past, you know, like something that was bothering him.

Liz told us she expects there will be a lot of sympathy for William Beebe, and she dreads the prospect of entering the adversarial arena of the courtroom—where her memories will be dissected and her motives questioned—and where she’ll have to confront Beebe. 

Seccuro: The first time I will get a really good look at him is when I look at him in court, you know?  I mean, this is an utter stranger to me.

That would happen sooner rather than later.  21 years after that night at the frat house, Liz and the man she accuses of destroying her life would come face to face in a  Charlottesville courthouse.

Michael Seccuro, Liz’s husband: There was no way, once she opened that letter and read that letter and jut say, “I forgive you,” and put it down.  It just would have created more pain on us and our family.

Edie Magnus, Dateline correspondent: Would you rather that you had not heard from him at all?

Liz Seccuro: Some days, yes.  Some days no.  Everything is, you know, “BL and AL”—before the letter and after the letter. You know, that’s how we’re defining our lives now.

Liz and her husband Michael flew into Charlottesville Virginia for a preliminary hearing.  Its purpose: to consider if there was probable cause to believe Beebe had raped Liz and, therefore, whether a grand jury should be convened to consider indicting him for rape - a crime which carries a prison sentence of 5 years to life.

Beebe was already sitting when Liz entered the courtroom.  Nervous but defiant, she scowled when she finally stole a peak at him.  A few minutes later, when the judge asked Liz to identify her assailant, she looked at Beebe but an instant before pointing at the grim-faced man across from her.

Over the next 2 hours, Liz gave her version of the assault, tearing up when she recounted the rape itself.

By the end of the afternoon, Liz got what she’d hoped for 21 years ago: the judge ruled that the rape case against William Beebe would go forward to the grand jury.

Seccuro: He looks exactly as I recalled so that’s what was very hard. So that’s what was very hard so I was a scared 17 year old in an instant.

Beebe surrendered his passport and is out on bond, living with friends in Richmond.  He was ordered by the judge to have no contact with  Liz and to keep attending AA meetings. 

It would seem like an open and shut case - particularly given that incriminating email Beebe sent Liz, saying, “I’m not intentionally minimizing the fact of having raped you. I did.”

But Beebe’s attorney is suggesting otherwise. In a statement to Dateline, his lawyer wrote, “Mr. Beebe did not rape Ms. Seccuro.  He treated her thoughtlessly in a college sex encounter, for which he was sorry...” as for the emails, the lawyer says, “Mr. Beebe sought only to avoid conflict, not to answer for a crime he did not commit.”

Seccuro: I’m like, are you kidding?  Oh, this was a, you know, he was not apologizing for rape.  He was apologizing for being ungentlemanly and immature and unkind.  Please.

There are perhaps 35 incidents of rape for every 1,000 college women, according to the latest government study.  Most of these assaults go unreported to the police.

The issue has sparked protests on many college campuses and little more than a year ago, students at UVA where Liz went to school staged a silent protest, condemning what they termed “the silence surrounding rape and sexual assault at the university”.  This coupled with  several rape victims coming forward to publicly tell their stories helped prompt UVA to change its policies on sexual assault.

Liz herself recently started STARS (Sisters Together Assisting Rape) — a foundation to help victims of rape get crucial medical, psychological and legal counseling.

Seccuro: I have a responsibility to the 17-year-old person that I was to make this right for her. And  I have a 3-year-old daughter.  Do I want her to go to a university and have this happen?  If I stay silent, nothing is going to change.

The man who was UVA’s dean of students in 1984 and who Liz says was insensitive to her declined to be interviewed on camera by Dateline.  But in a brief phone conversation he says he is comfortable how he treated Liz, and insists that he and the university did not minimize or mishandle Liz’s charges, saying “it’s contrary to what we stood for.” 

In a separate statement, a current UVA official urged us not to compare the way the university dealt with Liz’s 1984 allegations with how such issues are handled today. “The university”, the statement reads, “does not and will not tolerate acts of violence against students.”

In April 2006, a grand jury indicted William Beebe for forcible rape of Liz Seccuro in 1984 and ordered that he stand trial.

Magnus: Why put yourself back in this hole 22 years later?  Where you have to relive the whole thing?

Seccuro: Because I’m always reliving the whole thing.  This might finish it for me.  I didn’t choose to be raped.  I didn’t choose to have this piece of mail come to me.  I think I have a choice in how this turns out for me. I mean, what are the odds that someone’s going to write to you 20 years later and say, you know, “I’m sorry I raped you.” And now I have a chance to go to court.  There are people who don’t get a second chance.

2 weeks before his court date, William Beebe for the first time spoke out, and made a public admission.

William Beebe:  22 years ago last month, I crossed a line in the standards of conduct with Liz Seccuro.  I regretted that conduct immediately afterwards and since.

Bebee struck a deal — pleading guilty to one count of aggravated sexual battery.

Beebe: In the hope that this will bring enough peace to let Ms. Seccuro move forward, I’ve authorized my attorneys to seek and obtain a resolution of the case which would offer Ms. Seccuro closure and constitute a sufficient apology from me.

When asked by a reporter how she felt day, Liz says “I think it’s an edifying moment...  This is a moment to my parents who were not given the proper information 23 years earlier.  So this day is really a long time coming.”

Under the agreement, the state recommended Beebe serve two years in prison, perhaps even less if he cooperates in a new investigation that touches on some of Liz’s unresolved fears that she addressed with Beebe in an email exchange..  

Remember when she asked: “Were you my only attacker?”   “I recall other people in the room.  Were they merely spectators or participating?”

While Beebe wrote back that he remembers being the only man present, it turns out that Liz’s foggy recollection may have been right after all.

In court, the prosecutor said that new evidence suggests that Liz may have been sexually assaulted that night — not just by Beebe — but by others at the fraternity party.

Liz Seccuro: In light of this new evidence, I understand  that it doesn’t end in the immediate future and its far more grave than we previously thought..

Now she once again has to wait for justice to take its course.

Securro: I’m hoping to start a surfer camp for surviviors—it’s better than sitting in a shrink’s office.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments