Sustained Outrage

Ryan Diviney: Tragedy of a night in Morgantown

The Washington Post has a story today about West Virginia University student Ryan Diviney, who was walking to the Dairy Mart on Willey Street next to WVU’s main campus when he was assaulted after exchanging words with some fellow students.

Diviney is now in a coma and cared for at home by his parents.

Last month Austin Vantrease was sentenced to prison for two to 10 years for his part in the beating. He was convicted of malicious assault in July

Co-defendant Jonathan May, 19, of Newark, Del., is serving a one-year sentence for misdemeanor battery.

Below is the story Kathryn Gregory and I did on Diviney and campus security at WVU in November 2009.

Recent violent incidents buck statistics, police say

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009

By Kathryn Gregory and Gary A. Harki

Ryan Diviney was just going to get a snack the night he was severely beaten in a Morgantown parking lot.

The 20-year old West Virginia University student from Ashburn, Va., was going with some friends to the Dairy Mart on Willey Street about 3 a.m. Nov. 7, when they passed another group of students. The two groups exchanged words and started fighting, said Sgt. Steve Ford of the Morgantown Police Department.

“The fight didn’t last very long,” Ford said. “It took seconds.”

According to witnesses, the people who attacked Diviney and his friends continued to kick and assault him after he had already fallen to the ground.

Diviney is now in a coma in an Atlanta hospital, according to, a Web site set up to update Ryan’s friends and family on his condition.

His beating was the most severe, but by no means the only, instance of violence against a WVU student this school year. But according to statistics provided by WVU police, fewer violent crimes have been reported this year than in 2007, despite a larger student population.

Still, several high-profile incidents have occurred on and around WVU’s campus in recent weeks.

On Oct. 18, 18-year-old WVU student Gregory T. Hansen was stabbed and seriously injured in a scuffle at the intersection of Grant Avenue and Third Street, according to Morgantown police.

One week later, on Oct. 25, police responded to a report of gunshots outside Summit Hall. No one was injured, but police found several bullet casings and bullet holes in the building’s exterior.

On Nov. 11, a female student was walking across campus outside Arnold Hall when a male elbowed her in the stomach, grabbed her purse and ran away. Although the female was not seriously injured, police categorized the incident as a strong-armed robbery because of the physical contact involved.

The next day, a male student allegedly forced his way into the rooms of several female students at the Towers dormitories and fondled the students, according to WVU police. Ethan Kyle Dye, 18, of Parkersburg, was charged with first-degree sexual abuse and released on a $10,000 cash bond.


WVU police responded to 11 violent crimes in October, including both aggravated and simple assaults, compared to 20 such incidents in October 2007, according to university police statistics.

“The trend so far is that crime is down,” said WVU spokesman Dan Kim. “That’s not to take away from the seriousness of any of the things that happened this year. … The university takes the safety of our campus and students very seriously.”

Two incidents involving weapons occurred in October, the first since March 2007, according to Clery report statistics released by WVU police. Before that, they say, the last campus incident involving weapons was in January 2006. (The Clery Act requires all colleges that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campuses.)

Two sex crimes, one categorized as a sexual assault and another as a sexual offense, were reported at WVU in September. The most recent reported sexual assault before that was in February.

The university works with police and students to curb crime. Campus police are working with Morgantown police to solve the Diviney case and others, Kim said.

“We have Ryan and his family in our thoughts and prayers,” he said.

Police arrived on the scene of Diviney’s assault moments after someone called 911, said Morgantown police Sgt. H.W. Sperringer.

Family members, who declined to be interviewed for this story, have credited the police department’s quick response with saving Diviney’s life.

“We’ve definitely had some fights, but this actually, based on injuries, is not normal. We don’t get a lot of injuries this serious,” Sperringer said. “It’s a shame this had to happen. You don’t like to see people hurt here in town.”

The Dairy Mart faces a wall of windows in Arnold Hall, the southernmost student housing building on West Virginia University’s sprawling campus. Police have leads in the case but want anyone who saw something that night to contact them, Ford said.

“Ryan’s fevers have not been as high over the past day or so, although they are as frequent,” a family member wrote on the Web site on Thanksgiving day.

“He really looks like his old self, as I remember seeing him sleeping. He was able to tolerate being in a seated position for four hours today.

“We pray that he will wake from his deep sleep every possible second. We pray he will heal, both physically and mentally. We simply pray for his happiness.”

Reach Kathryn Gregory at or 304-348-5119. Reach Gary Harki at or 304-348-5163.