A woman abducted from the sidewalk outside a Crystal River store Tuesday morning, taken to a nearby woods and raped was able to halt the attack by lying about her age, Crystal River police said.
When the 18-year-old woman told the attacker that she was only 16, he immediately stopped and began to apologize profusely, said Sgt. Mack Ballard. He then told her to get dressed and drove her back to the store where he had abducted her, Ballard said.
Partly because of detailed information from the victim, authorities had a suspect in custody within hours of the attack. Timothy Conley, 23, of Yellow Oak St., Crystal River, was arrested about 2 p.m. and charged with abduction/kidnapping and sexual assault, Ballard said.
Ballard gave this account:
The woman was waiting for her car to be repaired at the Sears Automotive Center at the Crystal River Mall when she stepped outside about 11 a.m. to smoke a cigarette.
A man stopped his maroon 1986 Toyota pickup truck in the fire lane and forced the woman to get inside. "When she started to scream for help, he told her, "If you scream, I'll kill you,' " Ballard said.
"She said he forced her in the truck and drove her about a mile down State Park Road to a dirt road by a gate.
"Then, he forced her out of the truck, threw her to the ground and he raped her. She said she lied to him during the act, saying she was only 16, and he stopped. He then apologized to her, saying he didn't know she was that young."
The woman called police after the attacker took her back to the mall about 30 minutes later. Ballard said she waited at the main entrance of the mall for police to arrive.
The woman asked police to take her to Citrus Memorial Hospital, but not before giving investigators detailed information about the rapist.
"She said the rapist was a white male about 6 feet, 200 pounds, with a light red beard, wearing glasses," Ballard said.
The woman also told officers that she noticed a Kmart bag with a container of motor oil in the truck.
Ballard said he went to Kmart to see if someone had recently bought oil. Store records showed only one motor oil purchase that day, at 10:36 a.m. He then searched for the clerk who sold the oil.
"Not only did she remember him, she knew him," Ballard said. "He'd been in the store several times with his wife. The clerk knew his first name was "Tim,' and she remembered his wife mentioning once that he worked at Pro-Line."
An officer went to Pro-Line Boats Inc. to find out whether it had an employee named Tim who fit the woman's description. Officers discovered that a Tim Conley had worked there, but no longer did. However, employees knew where Conley lived and gave officers directions.
Ballard said there were no vehicles in the driveway at Conley's house, and officers were told that Conley might be headed to Virginia.
While they were on State Park Road, officers saw a truck that fit the description turn off U.S. 19. The driver made a U-turn when he saw the police cars.
"We stopped him at the Days Inn, had him exit the truck and we asked him if his name was Tim Conley," Ballard said. "He said "yes' and we handcuffed him. We read him his rights, and he said he would talk and tell the whole truth.
"He admitted to the act, and said he was sorry and that he had apologized to her (victim) and took her back to the mall."
Ballard said Conley had changed clothes and taken a shower, but agreed to go home and retrieve the clothes he said he wore during the rape. Conley gave officers a pair of checkered shorts, a white shirt and underwear, Ballard said.
"This was a total team effort by the entire department," Ballard said. "In my opinion, this is an example of excellent investigative work on everybody's part who was involved."
Crystal River Mall manager Rhona Gubberman declined to comment on the case.