Man accused robbing Gonzaga student while her roommates hid in basement

September 11, 2018 GMT

Spokane police say a 51-year-old man broke into a home in the Logan neighborhood on Saturday night, robbed a Gonzaga University student at knife-point and demanded that she take off her clothes before she ran out the back door, screaming for help.

The same man, Kenneth B. VanSant, was accused in April 2004 of raping an 18-year-old woman while holding a pillow over her face, though he later pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree assault.

VanSant faces robbery and burglary charges in connection with Saturday’s incident. During a hearing Monday in Spokane County Superior Court, a judge set his bond at $200,000. He remained in jail Monday evening.

The break-in happened shortly after 10 p.m. at a house at the corner of Nora Avenue and Astor Street that is home to several young women who attend Gonzaga.

According to court records, one woman was in her bedroom when an unknown man walked in, and she began screaming for help. He then pulled out a folding knife and demanded money while threatening to cut her. She emptied her wallet onto her bed, looking for cash.

According to court records, the man took her iPhone 8 and then “demanded that she take off her clothing and yell into the pillow to muffle her volume.”

She refused and told the man she could get him money at the bank, and he said something to the effect of “Let’s go,” according to court records. They walked to the back door, where she made her escape. She told police she dropped her pillow, and at one point fell to the ground, while running barefoot into the night.

Police said they received several 911 calls. When officers arrived, the victim was too frightened to go back inside her home, according to court records. She described the suspect as a white man in his 50s, wearing cargo shorts, a red shirt and a black baseball cap.

Officers noted that someone had apparently kicked in the back door. According to court records, there was a shoe scuff on the outside of the door, and a piece of the doorframe was lying on the floor near the kitchen.

Another woman told police she and a third roommate had barricaded themselves in a basement bedroom when they heard there was a man with a knife in the house.

A fourth roommate arrived shortly after the incident and used her own phone to “ping” the stolen iPhone. Riding along in a patrol car, she led an officer to the stolen phone, which was at a house near Ermina Avenue and Lidgerwood Street, about three blocks north of the burglary scene.

Officers found VanSant at the house next door, huddled in the well of a basement window, trying to hide and sweating profusely, according to court records. His clothes, shoes, folding knife and a sheath were collected as evidence. He was booked into jail at about 11:30 p.m.

In the 2004 case, court records say VanSant drove his daughter’s friend from a bus station to his home in Spokane Valley. After VanSant’s daughter and her boyfriend went to bed that night, the daughter’s friend asked if she could play a game on VanSant’s computer. In the early morning, the two were playing a dice game on VanSant’s bed, and he suddenly attacked her when she stood up.

According to a detailed police affidavit, VanSant pushed the woman against a wall, threw her onto the bed, forcibly removed her clothes and raped her while holding a pillow over her face. The woman told police she fought back and scratched VanSant on his face and neck. Deputies noted scratches on his neck and shoulder.

Deputies also obtained a search warrant and forced entry into VanSant’s house after the victim check herself into a downtown hospital, where a doctor documented injuries consistent with rape, according to court records.

VanSant pleaded guilty to second-degree assault that December and was sentenced to time served in jail, plus 12 months of probation. It appears to be the only felony conviction on his record. Since then, he has been evicted from several residences in Spokane County, most recently in March.