Mary Moffett sat in a huge chair in her living room on a cold January day in Ann Arbor, Michigan, switched to a blank page in her notepad, and wrote a letter. She typed it out and printed two copies, one for the University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel and one for Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh.
“I am writing to you as a mother who is grieving the loss of her 22 year-old-daughter,” Jan. 21, 2021, the letter read. “I am writing and tell you this, as a Michigan football player is partially responsible for her death.” Quinn Moffett, Moffett’s daughter, had been found dead in her boyfriend’s toilet fifteen days earlier. Everything pointed to an unintentional drug overdose.
However, according to Moffett, her daughter’s murder was the end of a downward spiral that began in the summer of 2018, when Quinn claimed a Wolverines football player sexually raped her while two other players stood by and watched. Quinn had informed others that she believed she had been drugged and that at least one of the men had taken images or recordings of her.
“Whatever happened back in 2018,” Moffett wrote to Harbaugh and Manuel, “was the catalyst for so much of the pain, sadness, and depression that took away the beautiful light she was, and left her struggling so much for the last few years.”
Moffett had no idea her letter would end up with the university’s Title IX office, campus police, the Ann Arbor Police Department, and the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office. They would all investigate the charges. All of them would abandon it within two months.
The police would never question the three players or anybody else connected to the football program about the event or potential video evidence. The school would refuse to conduct a formal inquiry and would never meet with the athlete accused of assault, who had transferred to another university.
No one would speak with a fourth player, who told Rivals that he was invited over that night but was turned away at the door by his teammates. With Quinn dead, the authorities would determine the case was no longer worth pursuing.
At a time when one in every five female college students is raped, Quinn’s case raises issues about what institutions and law enforcement agencies owe their communities when victims of sexual assault are unable to speak the stories.
The law provides the minimum that the authorities must perform. According to some experts, they should do more.
Given the gravity of the charges, the university owed it to the safety of others on campus, according to Cari Simon, an attorney who represents sexual assault survivors.
“To say, ‘We can’t do anything about it because she died’ – that’s a pretty concerning mechanism for dismissing a case,” Simon said. “Is that somewhere you would feel comfortable continuing to get your education, knowing that’s what happened, and that the school did nothing?”
Moffett claims that when she sent the letter, she was not wanting for someone to be penalized. She wanted Harbaugh and Manuel to know what her daughter claimed happened.
It was the responsibility of the Michigan athletic department and football staff, Moffett wrote, “to make these athletes understand that their actions have real consequences, ones that they cannot even imagine.” In her daughter’s case, she said, one athlete’s actions had “devastated an entire family.”
“The University of Michigan can, and has to do better,” her last paragraph read. “It is too late for my precious daughter, but on behalf of all the young women on campus and in the community, I beg you to DO MORE.”