Crime

Four years after Ocean Springs bridge rape sparked worry, a man has been arrested

WAVE - Women Against Violence Everywhere - has held walks and awareness vigils and is helping the city push for security cameras on the Biloxi Bay Bridge after a woman was raped there last year.
WAVE - Women Against Violence Everywhere - has held walks and awareness vigils and is helping the city push for security cameras on the Biloxi Bay Bridge after a woman was raped there last year. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

A Utah man has been arrested in a 2014 rape on the Biloxi Bay Bridge after his DNA registered as a match, police say.

Last month, on Oct. 17, Ocean Springs police were notified by the Mississippi Crime Lab that a DNA sample submitted after the rape matched a man in Utah, Capt. William Jackson said in a press release.

The sample matched Aaron Roy McMillian, 32, of American Fork, Utah, which is just south of Salt Lake City, Jackson said.

Investigators confirmed McMillian was living in Ocean Springs at the time, and detectives flew to Utah to interview him. Police obtained an arrest warrant from Judge Calvin Taylor, and McMillian was arrested on a rape charge.

He is in the Utah County Jail awaiting an extradition hearing.

The assault worried those who use the bridge for exercise, as well as female walkers and runners across the Coast. A women’s group formed to help get security cameras installed on the bridge.

Aaron Roy McMillia_fitted.jpeg
Aaron Roy McMillian Ocean Springs Police Department, via Utah County Jail

Fearing for her life

The woman who reported the rape speaks little English and relied on her husband to translate questions from police.

She said she was attacked about 8:30 p.m. Nov. 14, 2014, when overnight temperatures dipped below freezing. She was alone, and the usually busy bridge didn’t have many walkers because of the cold.

She was halfway up the Ocean Springs side of the bridge, the police report says, when the rapist, coming from the Biloxi side, walked past her.

Seconds later, the report said, he “turned and grabbed her, forcing her to the ground face down and raped her from behind.”

The woman said she didn’t struggle because her attacker had his hands around her neck and she feared he’d strangle her or throw her off the bridge.

She also had nowhere to go safely. Her options were to jump into the water or go over the other railing into eastbound traffic.

After the assault, the report says, the man let her go but followed her back down the bridge toward Ocean Springs.

She said he was shouting obscenities at her but ran when she got near the Ocean Springs Yacht Club.

The woman drove home and told her husband what had happened. He dialed 911, the report says, then took her to Ocean Springs Hospital for a rape examination.

Days after the incident, Ocean Springs police released a sketch of the rapist, but two days later they realized it was the wrong sketch from an unrelated case.

Security cameras

After the bridge rape was reported, six Ocean Springs women came together and formed WAVE — Women Against Violence Everywhere.

The group held walks and awareness vigils and helped fundraise for security cameras on the bridge.

“We really feel like the cameras could not only catch things that are happening but also deter things from happening,” she said. “Just putting the sign out letting people know they are being monitored is going to help.”

Two cameras were installed on the Ocean Springs side in June 2016.

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