Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878

Alleged on campus kidnapper arrested

St. Louis County Police

William James Cobbins, 22

William James Cobbins, 22, has confessed to the kidnapping and robbery of a 23-year-old graduate student in one of the most notable on-campus crimes in at least a decade.

Cobbins was arrested following a nearly two-month effort by the St. Louis County and Washington University Police Departments that involved tracking surveillance footage and subpoenaing phone records.

Cobbins, a 5-foot-7-inch black male who lives several blocks north of the Union Station MetroLink stop, is currently being held in the St. Louis County Jail on a $75,000 cash-only bond.

On August 28, a graduate student getting into her car in the Snow Way garage, located between the Upper Row and the Village House, said she was approached by a man who said he had a knife and ordered her to drive him to nearby ATMs and withdraw money from her account.

Cobbins had her make two withdrawals for a total of $1,500 before taking her credit card and having her drop him off in the city, according to a probable cause statement released by the St. Louis County Police Department Wednesday.

A different woman then attempted to make a withdrawal with the credit card in St. Louis city but was unsuccessful. But using surveillance video, police were able to identify the car she was in when attempting to make the withdrawal, locate the car downtown and arrest the driver.

While the driver denied involvement in the crime, police were able to subpoena his phone records, which included numerous calls to Cobbins after the driver’s release.

Cobbins, at this point a suspect in the case, was then arrested and questioned. Although he denied committing the robbery or kidnapping, he identified a surveillance photo of himself taken at the Delmar MetroLink station shortly before the abduction occurred.

Other MetroLink and University surveillance showed Cobbins walking from the station toward the parking garage and confronting the victim at her car. The graduate student then identified him in a live lineup.

Cobbins has confessed to class B felony kidnapping and class A felony robbery in the first degree.

WUPD Chief of Police Don Strom said in September that it was the first robbery of its kind he could recall during his 13 years at the University.

“I really commend the investigators for all their persistence and attention to detail to help get this dangerous guy off the street,” Strom said. “Hopefully the campus will rest a little more comfortably tonight knowing the individual responsible for the crime is in custody.”

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878