On Monday, nearly five months after Rolling Stone magazine published a controversial story about the alleged gang rape of a female student at the University of Virginia, the police department in Charlottesville, Va., announced it was suspending its investigation into the allegations.
During a press conference, Police Chief Timothy Longo confirmed that his department was unable to corroborate the student's story.
"We were unable to find a statement of fact that there was even an event" at the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house where the alleged attack was said to take place,” Mr. Longo said during the press conference, NPR reported.
"This doesn't mean that something terrible did not happen to Jackie," Longo said. "We were just not able to conclude that anything happened."
The announcement marks the end of the official police investigation into a case that has raised important questions about journalistic ethics. Rolling Stone magazine also plans to publish its own investigation into its reporting.
The original 9,000-word piece was published in November 2014 by journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely.
The story sparked a national debate about rape on college campuses and led the University of Virginia to suspend all fraternities on campus and launch an independent review of the school’s sexual misconduct policies.
But shortly after the story was published, media outlets began to call attention to some of the discrepancies and contradictions within the piece. Among other things, Rolling Stone was criticized for not attempting to contact those accused of the attack. Meanwhile, some of the victim’s friends said they doubted her account of the events.
As the inconsistencies came to light, Rolling Stone issued an apology for the discrepancies in its article and began to fact-check it.
“In the face of new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie's account, and we have come to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced,” the statement read.
The dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Steve Coll, has been leading the independent review of the story, CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter reported Sunday.
The four-month police investigation included interviews with those connected with the case, including university officials, members of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and two of the accuser’s best friends, among others.
The police chief also said that his investigators had made “numerous attempts” to identify the man that the Rolling Stone article called “Drew,” who was said to have gone on a date with Jackie on the night of the attack. The police were unable to find him.
Moreover, a time-stamped photo of the Phi Kappa Psi house on the night of the alleged attack showed that the entrance to the fraternity house was empty, leading investigators to suspect that the party at which the alleged rape took place had not occurred.
Longo said that the case would remain open in case future evidence was found.
"I can't prove that something didn't happen," Longo said. "Someone else in the future may come forward" with information that may change the results of the investigation.
Rolling Stone magazine plans to publish its external review of the disputed article “in the next couple of weeks,” its managing editor, Will Dana, told The New York Times.