MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin-Madison campus continued to reel this week as new details emerged in the case of a senior facing felony charges of sexually preying on multiple students over the last 18 months.
Alec Cook, 20, was charged with 15-counts of sexual assault involving five women on Thursday.
A Dane County judge set bail at $200,000 for Cook, a business major from Edina, Minn., who has been in jail since last Friday.
Cook was first charged last Wednesday with raping another student for more than two hours in his apartment on Oct. 12, ignoring her pleas for him to stop and, at one point, choking her, according to court records. That case includes three counts of second-degree and one count of third-degree sexual assault, and one count each of strangulation-suffocation and false imprisonment.
After police found a notebook allegedly detailing Cook's "stalking and grooming" techniques, more students came forward with allegations of sexual assault or inappropriate touching. Another count of false imprisonment was added as well as another count of strangulation and suffocation.
According to the amended complaint released Thursday, Cook told police during questioning that he didn't recall ever putting his hands around the neck of the first woman who accused him of sexually assaulting her. Asked how he would not be aware of grabbing someone around the neck, Cook replied, "Sometimes I get lost in the heat of the moment," paused, and then said, "I don't remember."
According to the complaint, Cook also told police he felt uncomfortable describing sexual activity. "Deep down I am sexually insecure," he said, according to the complaint.
What the victims said:
Second woman: Three days after the first woman came forward, a second woman contacted police and reported that she met Cook at a ballroom dance class last spring. She said he reached up her skirt and touched her buttocks and also grabbed her breasts over the top of her clothing on at least 15 occasions.
Third woman: Another woman reported to police that she had met Cook during a human sexuality class in January and dated him for about two months. On their first date, he gave her "many, many compliments." On their second date, he made her dinner and they had consensual sex. She told police Cook's kissing was "very forceful" and "over-aggressive," which she said she attributed to him being an inexperienced kisser.
He later showed up at a party, "apparently uninvited," and immediately sat down and held her hand, the woman told police. He invited her to his apartment a few days later and they watched a movie. At one point, he brought her a drink of water or juice that she didn't request, but drank. She said she began feeling "fuzzy," remembered feeling very sleepy, and that she was sexually assaulted.
Fourth woman: The fourth woman said they first met at a birthday party for a friend, even though he told her he didn't personally know anyone there. She was standing in the kitchen with her friends when Cook walked in and "immediately demanded attention." Within 10 minutes of starting a conversation with her, he placed his hand on the back of her head and kept trying to kiss her.
While she turned away from him, she agreed to give him her phone number and he persistently called her to have coffee with him. She met him at a coffee shop on State St., and he again tried to kiss her and hold her hand. One to two weeks after their first meeting, she agreed to go to his apartment. She described forceful kissing and touching that she believed she stopped by faking an orgasm.
Fifth woman: The fifth woman reported that she met Cook at an experiment for a class last spring. In a chat on Facebook, he asked her to his apartment. They hadn't even said "hi" when he began to kiss her roughly. During consensual sexual activity, he began pressing on the front of her throat with his hand, and repeatedly kissed and choked her, on at least one occasion choking her with both hands.
She told police he forced her to have oral sex and had a fistful of her hair in his hand. He also slapped her repeatedly, asking if she liked it. She said she told him "no," but he continued striking her and was "going insane" striking her on the back and legs.
Cook's attorneys said Thursday after his bail hearing that they believe all sexual activity that occurred was consensual and that the ballroom dancing allegations are false.
"He takes this very seriously," attorney Jessa Nicholson Goetz told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's absolutely devastated to learn women felt pressured or unsafe in his presence. He doesn't desire to come off in a way that is intimidating or frightening."
Goetz said Cook's parents described him as socially awkward in the past. "He's described himself as feeling insecure in that area," she added.
His attorneys pushed back on the suggestion police made that the notebook found in his apartment was a diary of "stalking and grooming." They showed the first page of the notebook to reporters, describing it as "a way to try to keep track of how his social interactions are going."
The page shown to reporters listed these categories: name, date of last contact, where met, how met, color of eyes, job/major, interesting factual commonalities, what makes her special, present goal, what was my last step in this relationship, what's my next step, has it come to an end, and level of importance on a scale of 1 to 10.
"There is nothing to support the monster that exists in the minds of all the people of UW-Madison," said Cook's other attorney, Chris Van Wagner.
Details of the accusations against Cook have caused unease on campus and prompted students who crossed paths with him to recall their interactions and to wonder whether they were in Cook's notebook.
A UW-Madison senior from Minocqua, Jenna Wroblewski, told the Journal Sentinel she was in a criminal justice class with Cook her sophomore year, encountered him later that semester at a campus gym and agreed to have coffee with him on State St.
In the course of the conversation at the coffee shop, she mentioned that she practiced reiki, a healing technique based on the principle that the therapist can channel energy into a patient by means of touch.
"I think that's something I would be super interested in," Wroblewski remembers him saying in response. As they left the coffee shop, he grabbed her hand as if they already were in a relationship. He wanted to walk her home, but she said she was meeting a friend.
Before going their separate ways, she said, he pulled her in to kiss her on the lips. Not interested, she said, "I turned my head at the last second so he'd kiss me on the cheek." He texted her several times after that, asking if she would do reiki on him, but she made excuses and he stopped trying.
The last time she saw him was about three weeks ago, when they were both crossing a street, she said.
Ashley Luthern of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.