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Man charged in attack on Realtor in Manatee County

A man who authorities say tried to rape a Manatee County real estate agent Monday was arrested Tuesday and charged with kidnapping and attempted sexual battery.

Bruce Anthony Kotter, 63, was arrested at a home in Sarasota a few hours after a second Realtor reported that she had shown property to a man fitting the description of the one involved in Monday's incident.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office, a 69-year-old female real estate agent was showing a white, balding man a home in Whitfield Estates near the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Monday afternoon when he went into the bathroom and yelled that there was a leak. When she went to check, he forced himself on her.

The quick-thinking agent said the homeowners would return shortly and the man left, authorities said.

The agent said the man called himself "Jim" and "reeked'' of cigarette smoke. The man drove away in a newer model, dark-colored extended cab pickup, according to the authorities.

On Tuesday morning, another Realtor contacted detectives to say she also had shown a home on Monday to a man who had been in a dark-colored pickup. He gave her a "creepy feeling,'' she said, because he had changed locations many times and didn't show up with his wife as he said he would, the authorities said.

She said she waited by her car Monday afternoon while he looked around the house. He told her he liked it, then left.

It is not known whether the man or men involved in those two incidents had anything to do with the suspicious calls that prompted an alert by the Greater Tampa Association of Realtors on July 31. Posted on the Multiple Listing Service, the alert read:

"GTAR has received reports from several female members that a male has called them stating that he is interested in looking at property. After several odd questions and comments the individual continues to ask to have a showing by the female GTAR member. Because of smart safety precautions on the part of the GTAR members they told the individual that they were going to bring their male broker with them to the showing. This is when the individual gets agitated and no longer wants to move forward. These incidents have been shared with law enforcement."

In June, two female Realtors in St. Petersburg were robbed and held hostage by a man who said he wanted to look at houses. A 58-year-old retired Air Force major was arrested a few days later and has pleaded not guilty.

Real estate is considered a high-risk business because agents frequently meet with strangers in empty homes. Last fall, an Arkansas agent was murdered during a house showing.

Police advise agents not to go into a house with a stranger unless they are accompanied by a friend or colleague, or have told someone where they are. Ideally, they also should get a photo of a prospective client and a copy of the driver's license before meeting the person at a home.

Contact Susan Taylor Martin at smartin@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8642. Follow @susanskate.

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