High School Freshman Raped During Fourth Period
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
She told Putnam County Sheriff's Deputies she was grabbed on the way to the Palatka High School bathroom by an unknown man with a knife-- on Monday. Sheriff's deputies waited three days to release news of the rape. Now they have a sketch of the suspect and they hope the public can help them catch the rapist.
The fifteen-year-old freshman told deputies she was walking to the second floor bathroom in the 9th grade building during fourth period when an unknown man dressed in a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans with a tattoo of a tear under his left eye grabbed her and put her in a choke hold. She says he put a knife to her, dragged her into the boys bathroom and raped her. That was on Monday, although it was not released until Thursday.
"The thing is we've been working it," says Maj. Keith Riddick with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office. "We've been trying to find the guy without spooking him. At the same time, we're having to corroborate the evidence. We don't want to alarm somebody unnecessarily."
Sheriff's detectives are looking at surveillance video and talking to possible witnesses. But they're not sure if the accused rapist is a student or not.
"The thing about the tattoo is we don't know if it's a student that just got it," says Riddick. "We don't know if it's a temporary tattoo. I don't want people to get tunnel vision."
There's no security cameras near the bathrooms, but another student told detectives he saw someone who matched the suspect's description in the area.
Two deputies remain on the campus Thursday, the same as usual. But for one parent who just moved to Putnam County and enrolled her daughters three days ago, it may not be enough to keep them at Palatka High.
"It kind of makes me want to pull my kids out, now that this is going on at school," says Phyllis Lewis. "Now they are not safe."
Palatka Principal Karen Hughes did not return WCJB's messages and refused to allow WCJB on campus. Superintendent David Buckles referred WCJB to School Board Attorney Jim Padgett, who offered the district's sympathies to the family but declined to go on camera.
If you recognize the suspect in the sketch, contact Detective Shane Harrell with the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at (386) 329-0863. Or call Crimestoppers at (888) 277-8477.
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