EAST LAKE — Sheriff's deputies are seeking a man they say attacked a 49-year-old woman who was out running in a quiet residential neighborhood in East Lake.
About 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 26, the woman finished a long run and was cooling down by walking on Brian Road S in the Tarpon Woods subdivision, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
An unidentified man, shirtless and wearing long cargo shorts, crept up behind her and put her in a choke hold. He then wrestled her to the ground and groped her breasts, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said at a press conference Wednesday.
The woman — whose name authorities did not release — screamed, and the man let go of her and fled. A neighbor driving by was able to follow the suspect for a time and see his face. He then provided a description of the man, estimated to be about 22 years old, to sheriff's deputies.
The Sheriff's Office has created a composite sketch of the man, which it released to the media and distributed to residents of Tarpon Woods.
In the sketch, the woman's assailant appears to be a young white man with curly brown hair and a very faint moustache.
Gualtieri said no similar incidents took place before or afterward in the area, which the sheriff himself calls home. But investigators are troubled by the lewd nature of the attack.
"This is more than just a simple battery," he said. "It's what we would call a simple battery with sexual overtones."
He added, "We don't know what motivated this person. We're concerned about what motivated him, but we don't know."
Police dogs dispatched to track the suspect on the night of the attack could not follow his trail far. Gualtieri said that could mean that the man got in a car and drove away, or that he lives somewhere in the neighborhood.
Gualtieri said there aren't any specific precautions residents of the area can take, given the unexpected and isolated nature of the incident.
"We've got to be careful, because we don't want people to be overly alarmed," he said.
Authorities ask that anyone with information about the suspect call Detective Jeff Capra in the robbery and homicide unit of the Sheriff's Office at (727) 582-6200.
Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.