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Man arrested in sexual assault and beating of University of Wisconsin-Madison student

The student was found Sunday in downtown Madison after a person who lives nearby noticed she had been severely beaten, police said.
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A man was arrested Wednesday in the case of a University of Wisconsin-Madison student who was sexually assaulted and beaten in a horrific off-campus attack over the holiday weekend, police said.

The student, a woman in her 20s, was found around 3:20 a.m. Sunday on West Wilson Street in downtown Madison after a person who lives nearby noticed she had been severely beaten, Madison police said in a news release.

She was rushed to a hospital with life-threatening injuries and is expected to survive.

Brandon A. Thompson, 26, was arrested on charges of first-degree sexual assault, first-degree reckless injury and strangulation, Police Chief Shon Barnes said.

Fitchburg police initially pulled Thompson over at 1:18 a.m. Wednesday for a registration violation.

Authorities were able to use body-worn camera from Fitchburg police to match Thompson with video of a man walking behind the woman before the attack, Barnes said.

A witness said that when they spoke, Thompson said he had "just found" the woman after the attack, Barnes said.

"We now know he refused to stay on scene and immediately left in his vehicle, which was parked nearby," Barnes said. "Because of this we were not able to make contact with him on the night of the attack."

Paige Valenta, the police department's assistant chief of operations, said video sent in by the community proved to be the "linchpin" in the investigation.

"As a result of this video, detectives were able to read a license plate that directly led to the identification of Brandon Thompson as the perpetrator of this assault," Valenta said. "But video is not the only source of evidence in this case — detailed witness statements, crime scene analysis and biological evidence proved to be instrumental."

Detectives swabbed the area and gathered physical, digital and biological evidence, police said. Valenta said investigators are still processing evidence and taking statements.

Police previously said they did not think the woman knew her attacker.

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway thanked the woman's friends and family for assisting with the investigation. She asked the community to respect the family's privacy as the case progresses.

"I know that the entire Madison community stands behind this survivor and her family as they pursue a path towards healing," she said. "As someone whose family has been victim of a violent attack in the past, I know that it does, in fact, impact the entire family and all of our friends."

Jessa Nicholson Goetz, an attorney representing Thompson, said he was being held at the Dane County Jail awaiting his initial appearance.

"Brandon, like every criminal defendant, is entitled to the presumption of innocence," Goetz said.

Thompson is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a degree in criminal justice administration and a minor in psychology, his attorney said.