Art Professor Found Dead Accused of Sexual Assault and Hosting Orgies with Students
Hildwine was found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Accusations are mounting against former Northern Arizona University art professor and artist Jeriah Hildwine, 36, who was found dead in September from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. His girlfriend, Ashley Darby, 23, was also found dead, with Hildwine, from a gunshot wound. The pair had been missing for several weeks.
The Arizona Daily Sun reports that in August, a 20-year-old university student contacted the Flagstaff Police department to report that Hildwine, her former professor, had sexually assaulted her. Further investigation of Hildwine has revealed allegations of orgies, alcohol-fueled parties with students, and sex with an underage girl, all the more disturbing given the growing movement against sexual assaults on college campuses.
The student, who remains unnamed, told investigators that on May 4, 2015, Hildwine invited her and several other students from his class to attend a party at his home, where she was given alcohol and eventually asked to participate in sexual acts with Hildwine and others.
Following the party, Hildwine allegedly sent her several text messages, which she initially ignored. However, after beginning to feel guilty about ignoring text messages from a professor, she agreed to attend a dinner at his home on June 17. The victim claims that it was there that Hildwine forced her to have sex with him.
However, the student agreed to return the following evening, June 18, for an orgy involving at least seven other people, including Hildwine and Darby. At least one other student from Hildwine’s class, along with a 17-year-old girl, were involved as well. Investigators have learned that the 17-year-old, who told police she was intoxicated at the time, had sexual relations with Hildwine and one other man during the party.
At this point, the 20-year-old student sought help at the Northern Arizona Center Against Sexual Assault, but chose not to file a police report. She waited until August 21 to report the sexual assault allegations to local police. Six days later, Hildwine was suspended from his post at the university.
“Due to allegations of serious misconduct on your part, and based upon my judgement that your presence on campus is likely to constitute a substantial interference with the orderly functioning of your school, effective immediately you are hereby placed on administrative leave with pay from your role as lecturer in the School of Art,” NAU president Rita Cheng wrote in a memo to Hildwine, obtained by the Arizona Daily Sun.
Hildwine and Darby met with a local attorney on September 2. He was the last person to see the pair alive before their bodies were found in a wooded area near a parking lot on September 23.
A local CNN news outlet reported on September 25 that the couple were “happy and in love” at the time of their death.
“All of us as his friends have talked about it and we didn’t see a change. We did not see a change,” said James Wisch, a former roommate of Hildwine.
A single handgun was found at the scene, and the pair appeared to have been dead for some time. “We won’t probably be able to determine whether this was a murder-suicide or a suicide-suicide,” Rex Gilliland of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office told CNN. “I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to make that answer certain.”
“Our animal minds, from an early age, are drawn to strange sources of power: the dead dog on the side of the road, the dirty magazine down by the creek, the gun in dad’s closet,” wrote Hildwine, who was a painter and draughtsman, in an eerie artist statement on his personal website. “No amount of civilization can fully repress the impulses sparked by these talismans.”
Follow artnet News on Facebook.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.