Missionary, police testify against man accused of BYU gropings

Published: Thursday, Aug. 28 2014 1:55 p.m. MDT

Nathan Fletcher stands with his attorney, John Allan, in a Provo court on June 5, 2014. Fletcher is charged with two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, in connection with two groping cases at BYU.

Jeremy Harmon

PROVO — A former BYU student now serving an LDS mission testified Thursday against a man accused of grabbing her breasts while he was jogging on campus earlier this year.

"It was kind of like being punched in the face, only it was worse because it's not your face," the woman said during a preliminary hearing in 4th District Court.

Nathan Eric Fletcher, 23, is facing two counts of sexual battery, a class A misdemeanor, that stem from reports of 16 women who claim they were groped as they passed by someone on campus earlier this year. Fletcher, however, is charged with just two incidents, on March 15 and March 19.

BYU police have reported at least one additional groping case since Fletcher's arrest, during Education Week, Aug. 19-22, on campus.

While Fletcher isn't named as a suspect in all 16 cases, he was the only jogger located on any surveillance video across campus on the day that the missionary witness reported to have been groped, said BYU police detective David Styer Jr.

Fletcher provided an alibi for all 16 attacks, including the March 15 attack of the missionary and the March 19 attack of another woman for which he is facing charges. He told police he was "jogging" those two days, but not on campus, which could not be confirmed or dispelled, Styer said.

In each case, police reports indicate that a man either jogged past a woman, or a group of women, and grabbed at them as he ran by, or casually stood and waited for them to walk by him before attacking.

For the two cases in question, a man can be seen on video quickly reaching toward at least one of the women he passes. Much of the video, however, is pixelated, shot from a distance and/or the person depicted is blurry.

The 19-year-old Pennsylvania woman who testified in court said she recognized the accused jogger on surveillance video obtained from the school because of the short shorts he was wearing on the day she remembers being groped.

However, she was not able to pick Fletcher out of a lineup presented to her by Styer after the attack.

"They were extremely short shorts, I would remember that," she testified Thursday. She also said the man who groped her was dressed "flamboyantly" and "very immodestly."

"His shorts revealed a very large portion of his legs, which were long and thin and very pale," the woman read from a written report she filed with Provo police.

Ann Haymond, BYU track and field team office manager, told the court she recognized "something incredibly familiar" about the video surveillance shown to the entire team in March. Police had hoped the team might recognize the jogger in the video.

"I see hundreds of athletes every year. I don't always remember names, but I do remember faces and things that are familiar," Haymond said, adding that she heard someone say "Nate," and said, "Immediately for me, it was Nate Fletcher."

"I've seen his gait, I recognize that," she said. "It was very easy."

Haymond said it was clear the suspect in the videos was wearing exclusive track team-issued clothing.

Upon seeing surveillance video, BYU track and field head coach Ed Eyestone said he was "pretty ticked off someone would be wearing a BYU uniform doing these things."

"This is definitely BYU track gear," Eyestone said, adding that the clothing seen on the jogger in the video was issued to the BYU track team in the 2009-10 school year, when Fletcher was a member of the team.

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