A third-year University of Wisconsin-Madison student is in police custody for carrying out what prosecutors say was a months-long effort to aggressively pursue women before brutally sexually assaulting them.
Prosecutors say Alec Cook kept scores of notebooks, carefully documenting the women he knew to track his progress as he “groomed and stalked” them. On an “index page” at the front of a black leather notebook, one column was ominously labeled “kill.”
Cook, a 20-year-old business student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was charged on Thursday with 14 felony charges and one misdemeanor after at least six women came forward to report harrowing allegations of sexual assault against him. The charges against him include sexual assault, strangulation, false imprisonment, and suffocation. Cook pleaded not guilty, and his attorneys maintain that his interactions with the five women were consensual.
The Minnesota native, who has been suspended from the university, was first arrested on October 18 after a woman, also 20, contacted police to report that she had been assaulted. According to the criminal complaint, the woman first met Cook after she nearly hit him with her bike just off campus. They then got in touch on Facebook and hung out several times in public places, studying together at a campus library on the evening of October 12.
While Cook was walking her home, the woman said she told him, “I don’t want to move too fast,” saying she was interested in a relationship, not casual sex. Cook replied, “We won’t do anything you don’t feel comfortable with,” according to the complaint.
What the woman alleges came next is a nightmare scenario. The pair returned to Cook’s apartment, where he allegedly began forcefully kissing her and ignored her repeated requests to stop. When the woman tried to leave, Cook allegedly sexually assaulted her multiple times, at one point choking her until her vision blurred.
When Madison police searched Cook’s apartment, they discovered a series of notebooks meticulously documenting his interactions with women, with notes about how they met, the color of their eyes, his “present goal” in the relationship, and a box, left unchecked, labeled “killed?” The notebooks show that Cook “groomed and stalked” women since March 2015, Assistant District Attorney Colette Sampson said.
After Cook was arrested, a second woman made an assault claim against him, telling a detective: “I saw the news story and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell."
Since then, “dozens” of women have contacted them “wanting to speak” out about similar alleged interactions with him, police have said.
One woman reported that Cook was sexually aggressive during a ballroom dancing class on campus, another said he grabbed a fistful of her hair and forced her to perform oral sex on him in his apartment. Still another woman reported Cook gave her a drink that made her feel "fuzzy" and "really tired" before raping her.
Now Cook’s defense team just wants victims to stop coming forward and piling on their client.
Christopher Van Wagner, one of Cook’s attorneys, told a Badger Herald reporter on Thursday, “Tell [University of Wisconsin spokesman Marc Lovicott] to stop urging people to come forward.”
Another attorney for Cook, Jessa Nicholson, said her client has already been unfairly painted as “the face of evil in Madison and now across the entire nation, across the globe.”
“For some reason, whether it’s because the police have stepped up and said, ‘Can we have more people come forward?’ there’s been this urging for people to come and put our client’s face as the face of rape culture or the face of sexual assault, and that’s inaccurate and unfair,” she said, according to the New York Times.
Nicholson also tried to smear the women who have come forward to far. She said since one woman said she faked an orgasm and others have said they struggled with whether or not to report their assaults, the interactions were clearly consensual.
"There is a climate that suggests people who step forward as victims must be believed,” Nicholson said.