Bartow police seek sexual assault suspect - WFLA News Channel 8

Bartow police seek sexual assault suspect

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Bartow Police are looking for a suspect in a sexual assault. Image courtesy: Bartow PD. Bartow Police are looking for a suspect in a sexual assault. Image courtesy: Bartow PD.
BARTOW, FL (WFLA) - A neighborhood in east Bartow is on high alert after a stranger reportedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in her yard yesterday.

"We recovered physical evidence that supports her story," said Sgt. David Wyant, of the Bartow Police Department. "So we believe it's a true incident."

It happened around 11:00 a.m. in the general area of Oaklawn Dr. and Martin Luther King Blvd. The teenager said she was attacked in the yard next to her house as her siblings were inside.

"The child's parents were at work," Wyant said. "Right now we've canvassed the entire neighborhood at least 3 times and, as of yet, we haven't identified any witnesses that [saw] or heard anything."

The girl worked with investigators throughout Friday to create a sketch of the suspect. She believes he is in his mid to late 20's, 6 feet tall, 160 to 180 pounds, with short black hair and a mustache. He was driving a newer white Ford sedan, according to the victim.

"In our interviews with her - no words were exchanged between the two other than her screaming," Wyant said. "He never said anything to her."

The teen thinks she might have seen the suspect in the neighborhood two days before, which would have been Tuesday, Dec. 31.

"It's always possible we could have a stalker situation or someone who actually did surveillance or something along those lines," Wyant said. "But at this point in the investigation - it's too premature to say."

Police have increased patrols in the neighborhood because of what happened. Cecil Campbell has noticed. He’s been here for more than two decades and has 3 grandchildren ages 10, 8 and 5.

"I don't know if they get the real gravity of it but they know... they can feel," Campbell said. "They've seen the kids. They walked up to the scene with their father and had a chance even to talk to the victim's father. Their dad explained to them very well what it's about and they take note. Children learn faster now."

Campbell said he knows the victim's family, who have just recently moved to the area.

"As a community [we have to] come together and look out for one another," Campbell said. "Don't be afraid to say - who's that car over there? Who's that? Call me nosey if you want to, but that's what I'm going to do and that's what a lot of neighbors have said they're going to start doing."

If you recognize the man from the sketch or know more, call Detective Eric Sherouse at the Bartow Police Dept., (863) 534-5040 or CrimeStoppers at (800)-226-TIPS. Callers may remain anonymous.

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