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Long delay in rape report questioned

The Pasco County Sheriff's Office, unhappy that it took two weeks for it to be informed of a rape and robbery of an employee of the Human Development Center, is asking the public to be on the lookout for a large, muscular man with a large facial scar and an unusual tattoo.

The rape reportedly took place at 12:30 a.m. Sept. 15, when a female HDC employee was assaulted as she walked to her car in the center's parking lot.

The woman told the Sheriff's Office that, after the attack, she drove home, and later called her HDC supervisor and told her what had happened.

An HDC representative contradicts her account.

Detective Tim Powers said Tuesday that if the supervisor was in fact told of the rape, then it should have been immediately reported to the Sheriff's Office. He has asked the state attorney to determine whether failure to do so violates a state statute that obligates those who observe a sexual battery to notify authorities.

Powers said the woman did not contact the Sheriff's Office until Friday. She thought, Powers said, that HDC had called the authorities. Powers said that, as a result of HDC's inaction, crucial evidence that could have been obtained by an immediate physical examination, along with some of the woman's clothing, is no longer available.

"People were (telling her), "It's over. It happened. There's nothing you can do about it now,' " Powers said. "Twenty-four hours after it happens, we lose most of our evidence."

HDC's account differs markedly from Powers'.

Spokesman Vaughn Jones said Tuesday that HDC did not learn of the attack for days. The woman, he said, missed work for more than a week after Sept. 15. HDC tried to find out what was wrong.

"We were calling her, and she was basically saying something had happened," but she was not more specific, Jones said. The woman, he said, did not tell his agency about the attack until Sept. 23. And, he said, the woman specifically asked that the agency not call police. After consulting with attorneys, HDC decided to go along the woman's wishes, Jones said.

"We were told she (had not gone) to the police and had no intention of doing so because she did not want this to go public," Jones said. "We encouraged her to seek professional help. I think she said she was going to see a physician."

HDC provides psychiatric, counseling and substance abuse services for youths and adults through several residential, outpatient and crisis intervention programs. According to Jones, that includes rape counseling.

"I think we're all concerned about the health of this person and the safety and well-being of her," Jones said, "and it's very upsetting to us that this has happened."

The man sought in connection with the rape is described as being 6 foot 1, 230 pounds and muscular, with a scar on the right side of his face that runs from his ear to his chin. The man also has an unusual, bluish-green tattoo on his left hand: The word "LOVE" is spelled out, just below the knuckles of his fingers, with one letter on each finger and lines similar to a sunburst extending from each letter.

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