published Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

UTC police charge man with statutory rape

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In the dark corner of a parking lot at Houston and Vine streets on Sunday morning, a patrol officer said he watched a man, naked, pulling his pants on and crawling toward the front seat. And in the back, the officer said, lay a girl, 17, under a blanket, also naked.

About an hour later, about 2:30 a.m., University of Tennessee at Chattanooga police arrested Nathan Keith Vega, 28, of Ooltewah. Officers charged him with attempted statutory rape, indecent exposure and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Vega sat in Hamilton County Jail on a $10,000 bond.

Statutory rape cases are rare at universities. According to Tennessee Bureau of Investigations Crime on Campus reports that date to 2001, there had not been a statutory rape arrest at UTC before this week.

Other sexual assault cases are also uncommon. In 2012, police charged one person with forcible rape at UTC, though the crime is underreported throughout the country. Only 46 percent of rape victims tell police, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network.

On Sunday morning, after putting on clothes, Vega told an officer he and the girl just made out Sunday. No sex. No inappropriate touching.

The girl told police the same thing, according to an arrest report, and Vega said they have dated for several months.

Officers later drove Vega to jail and the girl to the UTC Police Department, where her father picked her up.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.

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