NFL prospect publicly declares innocence in 2010 sexual battery claim tied to suicide of St. Mary's freshman
February 22, 2014|By Chris Hine, Chicago Tribune reporter
Prince Shembo, a former Notre Dame linebacker entering May's NFL draft, proclaimed his innocence Saturday in an alleged sexual battery against Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, a Northbrook native and former student at St. Mary's College who committed suicide in 2010.
Shembo, who never was charged in the incident nor suspended from school, addressed the allegations for the first time at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
"I didn't do anything," Shembo said, according to espn.com. "I'm pretty much, I'm the one who ended it and pretty much told the girl that we should stop, that we shouldn't be doing this and that's what happened."
According to multiple reports, Shembo says he stayed silent about the case under orders from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. Notre Dame has refused to discuss the Seeberg case publicly or how it handled her complaint. The university did not respond to the Tribune's message Saturday evening.
"Yes, I wanted to talk about it, but they had to keep everything confidential," Shembo told Blue and Gold Illustrated, which is not affiliated with Notre Dame. "Now that I'm out (of school), I can talk about it. My name was going to flames and it just made my name look bad and I can't even speak."
Shembo said several NFL teams have inquired about his involvement in the case and he said he has not shied away from answering their questions.
"I have nothing to hide," Shembo told Blue and Gold Illustrated.
The alleged attack happened Aug. 31, 2010 in Shembo's room.
Seeberg, a freshman who had battled anxiety disorder, notified police of the incident the next day. According to St. Joseph County prosecutor Michael Dvorak, Seeberg's complaint did not involve rape but a sexual battery involving touching of breasts.
In the days after the incident, Seeberg received a text message warning her about "messing with" Notre Dame football from a friend of Shembo's.
She expressed suicidal thoughts to her counselor, according to St. Joseph County Police. On Sept. 10, 2010, Seeberg missed a counseling session and was found unconscious and barely breathing in her dorm room. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she died of a drug overdose from prescription medication.
The Tribune reported in November 2010 that campus authorities did not initially tell county police about Seeberg's report of a sexual attack, nor did campus police refer the case to the county's special victims unit, which was established to handle sex offenses, according to county officials. Notre Dame police didn't contact Shembo until five days after she died, according to the Seeberg family.
At the time, the Tribune did not name Shembo because he had not been charged with a crime and his identity was never revealed publicly until he spoke out Saturday.
After Notre Dame turned over its findings to county police, Dvorak, citing a lack of evidence and the likelihood Seeberg's statements would be inadmissible in court, said his office would not press charges against Shembo nor would it press charges against the person who sent Seeberg the ominous text message.
In the wake of Seeberg's death, the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation in Notre Dame's handling of sexual assault cases. As part of an agreement between the school and the Department of Education, Notre Dame pledged to make wide-ranging reforms in its handling of such cases.
Tom Seeberg, Lizzy's father, declined comment to the Tribune on Saturday.
Shembo, who had 191/2 sacks in his career at Notre Dame, is projected as a fourth- or fifth-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, according to nfldraftscout.com.