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UPDATE: Marshall students say 6 months in jail for stalker isn’t enough

(WSAZ)
Published: Sep. 17, 2018 at 6:41 AM EDT
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UPDATE 10/5/18 @ 5:57 p.m.

The man who stalked two women on Marshall's campus will be serving six months in jail.

Michael Hankins, 40, won't be allowed to enter West Virginia for a year after he's released.

Students tell us it's not a harsh enough punishment. Prosecutors agree, but say their hands are tied.

A preliminary hearing for Michael Hankins on Friday turned into a guilty plea. He admits to stalking two women on Marshall's campus a couple weeks ago.

They are crimes that no one has forgotten on campus.

"It was a little scary," said Skylar Huffstutler.

"It's a little scary especially for me being a girl," added Alyssa Carney.

It's changed behavior for many women on campus. Huffstutler won't walk by herself anymore after late-night shifts. Her boyfriend will come to meet her.

She's not alone.

"I've started carrying pepper spray on me," said student Morgan Duffy.

"I carry my Taser with me,” added Carney.

Hankins is from Chesapeake, Ohio, and already a convicted sex offender. The plea deal calls for six months of jail and six months suspended sentence on unsupervised probation.

The students all said that wasn’t long enough.

"It does seem very short," Duffy said.

But Cabell County Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Plymale said her hands are tied.

“This is what was appropriate in this case,” she said. “We did the best we can with the charges we do have."

Plymale said Hankins broke no other similar crimes, despite the fear he caused the two victims, as well as campus as a whole. However, a felony charge for having a false title for a vehicle was dropped as part of the plea deal.

Stalking is a misdemeanor charge if it's not a second offense within five years of the first conviction. A felony conviction for the second time carries one to five years in prison.

She said she wishes the punishment was stiffer in this case.

“Absolutely. You find out that sometimes the punishment doesn't fit with what the wording is."

The deal also bars Hankins from entering the state of West Virginia for an entire year after he's released from jail. However, an arrest warrant for burglary was issued on Tuesday for Hankins out of Lawrence County, Ohio, so deputies there should be notified to pick him up as he’s released from Western Regional Jail.

But students still worry what will happen when he's released.

"I feel like it's going to happen again,” Huffstutler said.

"I don’t trust anyone here," Carney said.

"A lot of us girls are still going to be here in six months," Duffy added.


UPDATE 10/5/18 @ 2:12 p.m.

A convicted sex offender who followed women on Marshall University's campus is going to jail.

Michael Hankins, 40, of Chesapeake, Ohio, took a plea deal Friday. Hankins pleaded guilty to two counts of stalking. The plea agreement drops a felony charge of forgery of a vehicle title.

A judge sentenced Hankins to six months in prison and six months of unsupervised probation, to run consecutively. Following probation, Hankins is banned from setting foot in West Virginia for one year.

Back in September, police arrested Hankins for following two different women on or near Marshall's campus. Investigators say that was not the first time they arrested Hankins for trespassing and for following women around on campus. WSAZ also obtained court records that show Hankins exposed himself to a Marshall student in the past and even exposed himself to an 11-year-old getting off a school bus.

After Hankins serves his sentence in West Virginia, he will be extradited to Ohio. He is a convicted sex offender in Lawrence County, Ohio and was not allowed to leave the state when he was caught stalking Marshall students. He is also currently a suspect in a home invasion in South Point.

You can read more about Hankins' criminal history in the updates below.

UPDATE 9/18/18 @ 6:28 p.m.

A convicted sex offender accused of following women on Marshall University's campus is facing additional charges. WSAZ has also obtained court records that show a lengthy criminal history.

Michael Hankins, 40, of Chesapeake, Ohio, is now charged with stalking and possession of a controlled substance. Police charged him with trespassing Monday. All of the charges are misdemeanors.

According to criminal complaints, Hankins followed two different women Sunday night -- one to her apartment building and the other to her dorm building.

In the first case, Huntington Police Department took the report. Around 11:40 a.m. Sunday, a female student said she was stopped at the red light at 20th Street and 6th Avenue when she noticed the suspect in a red vehicle beside her. She told police Hankins was staring at her and making her uncomfortable. The student drove to her apartment building on 3rd Avenue, but when she went to get out of the car, she saw Hankins in the rearview mirror, standing behind her vehicle staring at her. The victim said she was afraid and she drove away, hoping Hankins could not follow her because he was not in his vehicle. Hankins is charged with stalking in connection with that incident.

But the suspect allegedly did not stop there.

On Monday, a different student went to the Marshall University Police Department (MUPD) and said a man followed her on the same day as the first victim. This woman said it was around 11:50 p.m. Sunday when she was walking from a nearby store at the corner of 5th Avenue and 20th Street to campus right across the street.

Video surveillance shows the suspect following the victim in his car from the corner of 19th Street and Maple Avenue to 18th Street. That's where police say Hankins got out of his vehicle and followed her on foot. The victim said she was scared and managed to get to her dorm room in Gibson Hall safely. She identified Hankins in a photo lineup and he was charged with another count of stalking.

While searching Hankins' car Monday with a search warrant, police found a glass pipe, red straw, and a plastic jar with a crystal substance inside believed to be crystal meth. Police say it was "packaged in a way commonly used by drug dealers or users." It was in the front passenger seat. Officers charged Hankins with possession of a controlled substance.

Investigators say this is not the first time they have arrested Hankins for trespassing and for following women around on campus.

WSAZ obtained court documents that show a long criminal history at the university including trespassing, tickets, and even exposing himself to a student.

In 2010, Hankins was given multiple tickets on Marshall's campus -- some for less serious charges like running a red light and speeding.

In 2014, Hankins exposed himself to a student walking to class. He was charged with indecent exposure -- a misdemeanor.

Investigators say Hankins continued returning to campus during the next few years, despite being told to leave by MUPD and university administrative officials multiple times. He trespassed at least twice and was told not to come back. The university posted on Facebook in 2017, warning students of Hankins' presence after arrest warrants were filed for trespassing.

The suspect ultimately took plea deals on the indecent exposure and trespassing charges. It is unclear right now how much time he served behind bars for those crimes.

Also in 2017, police say Hankins exposed himself to an 11-year-old girl as she got off her school bus in Cabell County. According to court documents, he stopped the girl and asked for directions, exposed himself, and made an obscene comment.

We have learned Hankins should have never been on Marshall's campus in the first place. He shouldn't have even been in West Virginia. He is a convicted sex offender in Lawrence County, Ohio and was not allowed to leave the state.

He was convicted in December of 2007 of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and corruption of a minor. Investigators said he had "sexual conduct" with a teenager between the ages of 13 and 16. He was released on probation in 2009 after serving less than two years of his four year sentence.

In 2011, court documents show Hankins violated the terms of his probation and he was sent to prison and ordered to have post-release supervision. It is unclear when he was released.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless tells WSAZ that after the 2007 conviction, Hankins was ordered to stay on the sex offender registry for 10 years. He is currently scheduled to get off the registry in 2021. Lawless explained that the end date is later because Hankins has been in and out of jail. When an offender goes back behind bars, the registry clock stops. It begins again when the offender is back on the streets.

Through the years, Hankins has also been convicted of attempt to commit burglary, breaking and entering, and drug charges. He is also a suspect in a recent home invasion in South Point. Sgt. Lenny Abrams tells WSAZ Hankins allegedly broke into a home where a mom and daughter were alone in the early morning hours. It happened a few weeks ago.


UPDATE 9/17/18 @ 1:42 p.m.

Police arrested a convicted sex offender for allegedly following women on Marshall University's campus.

Michael Hankins, 40, of Chesapeake, Ohio, is charged with trespassing among other charges. However, Marshall Police say more charges will be filed.

Police say this is not the first time they have arrested Hankins for trespassing and for following women around on campus.

Hankins is a convicted sex offender in Lawrence County, Ohio. He was convicted in December of 2007 of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and corruption of a minor.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless confirms to WSAZ Hankins was ordered to stay on the sex offender registry for 10 years. He is currently scheduled to get off the registry in 2021. Lawless explained that the end date is later because Hankins has been in and out of jail. When an offender goes back behind bars, the registry clock stops. It begins again when the offender is back on the streets.

The latest incident at Marshall happened on Sunday.

Police say they got a call saying that a suspicious man was following a woman around on Marshall's campus. It happened in the 1800 block of Maple Avenue on campus.

The woman told police the man was in an older red car and had on a white/grey shirt and had short hair. Police later stopped that car in the 500 block of 13th Street where they identified the driver as Hankins. A maroon 1995 Toyota Corolla is listed as one of Hankins' vehicles on the registry.

Surveillance video on campus shows Hankins following a woman while he was in his car. He followed her to a student parking lot off of Maple Avenue. Police say he then gets out of his car and chases after the woman.

She ran into Gibson Hall where she was able to get away from him. The suspect then walked back to his car and left.

Hankins is in jail on a $20,000 bond. However, police plan to file more charges against him.

Marshall released a statement to WSAZ saying, "Efforts to educate the university community about personal safety are part of a continuing conversation on campus including discussions in UNI 100 classes, digital signage with safety tips and opportunities to attend security courses."

ORIGINAL STORY 9/17/18

A man is facing charges after allegedly following women on Marshall's campus.

Michael Hankins, of Chesapeake, Ohio, is charged with trespassing, among other charges, after the incident. However, Marshall Police say more charges will be filed.

Police say this isn't Hankins' first time doing something like this. Police say they arrested him before for trespassing and for following women around on campus.

The latest incident happened on Sunday.

Police say they got a call saying that a suspicious man was following a woman around on campus.

It happened in the 1800 block of Maple Avenue on campus.

The woman told police the man was in an older red car and had on a white/grey shirt and had short hair.

Police later stopped that car in the 500 block of 13th Street where they identified the driver as Michael Hankins.

Surveillance video on campus shows Hankins following a woman while he was in his car. He followed her to a student parking lot off of Maple Avenue.

Police say he then gets out of his car and chases after the woman.

She ran into Gibson Hall where she was able to get away from him.

He then walked back to his car and left.

Hankins is facing a trespassing charge and is in jail on a $20,000 bond. However, police plan to file more charges against him.