Crime, Law and Justice

Boyfriend 'waterboarded' St. Kate's student during 4-day dorm assault, charges allege

St. Catherine University
St. Catherine University in St. Paul.
Tim Post | MPR file photo

A Granite Falls man is facing multiple felony charges over allegations that he physically and sexually assaulted a St. Catherine University student in her dorm room over four days.

Ramsey County prosecutors allege that Keanu Avery Labatte, 19, began attacking his girlfriend of two months soon after arriving on campus to visit her Thursday evening.

According to the criminal complaint filed Monday, Labatte found messages and pictures on the woman's phone that “infuriated him.” He then allegedly grabbed the device and kept it away from the victim before repeatedly punching, choking, raping and threatening to kill her over the course of the weekend.

The woman reported the attack to campus security Sunday after she convinced Labatte to let her go to the cafeteria. The university’s security supervisor immediately called St. Paul police.

The charges allege that the victim told authorities that “she was unable to breathe, felt lightheaded and saw stars while being strangled; she thought she was going to die.”

On Saturday, Labatte forced her to lay down in her bathtub and “engaged in ‘water boarding’” by covering her mouth with a washcloth and pouring water over her from a bucket.

Prosecutors also write that Labatte, while threatening the woman with a knife, “held her arm and said he was looking for the right vein to cut deep enough so no one could save her.”

Labatte returned the student’s phone on Sunday morning and allowed her to leave the dorm room to get food. Labatte allegedly “demanded that she send a Snapchat picture showing that she made it to the cafeteria so he could keep track of her.”

As the student was speaking with police, Labatte tried calling her five times over the course of 24 minutes and asked in a text message why there were cops outside.

Police arrested Labatte in the dorm room. Ramsey County Jail records show that he remains detained as of Tuesday evening; a judge set bond at $80,000.

In response to questions about campus safety from MPR News, St. Kate’s spokesperson Sarah Voigt wrote in an email that university administrators notified residence hall students on Sunday that “there was no ongoing threat,” and that a community-wide message was sent out Tuesday.

Asked how a protracted sexual assault could go unnoticed for days in a communal living space, Voigt said that “while Public Safety and Residence Life staff are constantly on the lookout for any signs of trouble, they do not pause and listen at dorm room doors,” to avoid violating students’ privacy.

Prosecutors said that in a search of the dorm room, police found the mattress from the student’s bed on the floor, which the alleged victim “said Labatte had done to prevent others from hearing the bed squeaking during the sexual assaults.”

Officers also recovered a folding knife.

Labatte is charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, domestic assault by strangulation, and making threats of violence.

Court records show that he has been on probation in Yellow Medicine County since April for violating a restraining order involving another woman. Prosecutors in the western Minnesota county allege in a complaint filed in November that Labatte had sent unwanted messages to a student at a Granite Falls high school whom he had dated.

In that case, a Yellow Medicine County judge gave Labatte a stay of adjudication on the condition that he remain law abiding and not make contact with the victim.

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