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Rapist posed as surveyor to get into house

The man who raped a 42-year-old woman Friday in the Trinity Oaks subdivision posed as a solicitor before forcing his way into her home, authorities say.

The Sheriff's Office on Saturday released new details of an attack that has left residents here uneasy and investigators hoping a tip will lead them to their suspect.

The man, who came to the victim's front door about 1:45 p.m., claimed to be taking a survey, Detective Travis Vail said. Vail gave this account of what followed:

The woman unlocked the door and put her two large dogs in another room. She was returning to the door when the man came inside. She tried to run back to let the dogs free, but the man knocked her to the floor and began beating her.

She punched and kicked, but the man overpowered her. He had a 6-inch knife sheathed to his waist, which the woman did not notice until he pulled it out. The man was also armed with some sort of wooden dowel.

Though the victim did not recognize him, the man called her by her first name and told her he had been watching her.

The man, who had a heavy, muscular build, dragged her into the garage, where he found some bailing twine. He used the twine to tie her wrists behind her back and ran the end of it up around her neck.

Then he dragged her to the living room and raped her, wearing a condom.

"You call the police," he said, "and I'll be back for you." Then he fled though the back door.

Still bound, the woman managed to get to a phone, knock it off its cradle and dial 911, possibly using her mouth, Vail said.

The first deputy to arrive cut the woman free and a manhunt ensued, employing dozens of deputies, a helicopter and a canine unit.

The dog led deputies along a dirt path that runs along woods in back of the neighborhood's $200,000 homes. But the dog lost the scent where the path met a road nearby. Investigators suspect the man got into a car there.

The victim was treated for bruises on her legs and back, knots on her head and rope burns around her neck at Community Hospital in New Port Richey. She was released Friday night.

She works as a general manager in retail sales but had taken Friday off, Vail said.

"In my opinion, I don't think (the suspect) was watching her in Trinity," Vail said.

The Sheriff's Office has assigned special patrols around her home.

Vail said the horror of the crime gives him "all the more energy" to find the man. "We took every measure possible to collect the DNA evidence that was left," he said.

"I think with the help of the public, we'll get this guy."

How to help

The rapist from Friday's attack was described as a white or Hispanic male, about 20 years old, 5 feet 10 and 220 pounds, with a muscular build and dark hair that was wavy and combed back. He was clean shaven and thought to be wearing blue cargo jeans, a long-sleeve dark cotton T-shirt and gray hiking boots. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Travis Vail at (727) 847-5878, ext. 7454.