Officials: Ex-teacher confessed to PSU attack

Nate Justin Wheeler at his Multnomah County court appearance on charges he assaulted a student in an elevator at PSU (June 12, 2013, KOIN 6 News)
Nate Justin Wheeler at his Multnomah County court appearance on charges he assaulted a student in an elevator at PSU (June 12, 2013, KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A man accused of attacking a woman inside an elevator on the Portland State University campus has confessed, officials said.

Police arrested Nate Wheeler, 40, and charged him with two counts of first-degree sex abuse. He reportedly confessed to the crime, telling police he was in a “trance” during the attack, officials said.

The attack occurred Saturday afternoon inside Neuberger Hall. KOIN 6 News will not identify the woman involved in the attack because she is an alleged victim of a sex crime.

She told police she was riding the MAX from Pioneer Square in downtown Portland to PSU, officials said, and noticed a man wearing a hat sitting near her.

When the victim reached PSU, she said she went into Neuberger Hall where she planned to meet a friend on the fourth floor, officials said.

As the elevator doors started to close, a hand entered, preventing the door from closing, investigators said. A man wearing a hat entered the elevator, officials said.

Portland State University released this video from a MAX train following a reported attack on campus (KOIN-TV).
Portland State University released this video from a MAX train following a reported attack on campus (KOIN-TV).

The woman told police it was the same person she saw on the MAX. The victim told authorities that she got a “bad feeling” about the man and that she moved towards the call buttons.

As the elevator was moving, the suspect attacked, police said.

He grabbed her, pulled up her skirt and touched her body, officials said.

The woman started to fight back; when the elevator reached the fourth floor, she started screaming and the suspect took off running, investigators said.

The victim’s friend heard the screaming and later told officers he saw a man wearing a straw hat running from the building, officials said.

Using video provided from TriMet, detectives were able to find a man that matched the suspect’s description.

Portland State University released this video from a MAX train following a reported attack on campus (KOIN-TV).
Portland State University released this video from a MAX train following a reported attack on campus (KOIN-TV).

An alert was sent out to PSU students and staff via email warning them of the attack.

Investigators got a tip that the man shown in the video was Wheeler.

Police learned Wheeler was a registered sex offender who lived in Northwest Portland.

A search warrant was obtained and was executed on Tuesday.

Officers said Wheeler was home at the time of the warrant and was read his Miranda Rights.

When he was questioned by police, Wheeler reportedly said he was in a “trance” during the attack in the elevator because he has a sex addiction.

After the attack, Wheeler told police that he went to a strip club where he started drinking.

Wheeler will appear in Multnomah County Circuit Court at 2:30 Wednesday afternoon for his arraignment.

 

— Brent Weisberg

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