Patrols, search intensify after reported sexual assault near sch - News, Weather & Sports

Patrols, search intensify after reported sexual assault near school bus stop

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Jeanette Stone Jeanette Stone
Det. Capt. Rachael Lee Det. Capt. Rachael Lee

UTICA, IN (WAVE) - Jeanette Stone won't say folks are close-knit in High Meadow subdivision. More that they're close by and watchful.

"It is a quiet neighborhood; had been a safe neighborhood," said Stone.

That changed after hearing that a 15-year-old neighbor told Clark County Sheriff's detectives that a man had sexually assaulted her at gunpoint as she was walking toward the school bus Tuesday morning.

"I was surprised, but I wasn't surprised too," Stone said. "Crime is everywhere these days."

"She (the teenager) seems to be doing okay," Det. Capt. Rachael Lee said. "Physically, she's doing well. Emotionally, who knows."

Lee accompanied the girl to Floyd Memorial Hospital for a rape exam shortly after the teenager's guardian reported the incident.

"We've got lots of leads that we're following up on, but we can't get a positive ID on a suspect," Lee said.

The teenager described her alleged attacker as a middle-aged white man, whose blond hair was turning gray, with a neatly-trimmed goatee. She told investigators that the man pulled her inside of a white panel van, and released her following the assault.

Wednesday, several neighbors confirmed that a white van had been parked near the teenager's home over the weekend.

"I thought it was somebody helping my neighbor move," said Ernie Jones. "I wish I had taken my trash out (Tuesday morning). I might have seen him, and stopped it."

Lee said investigators have not been able to determine whether the suspect may have been staking out a victim, or if the teenager simply was an attack of opportunity. The pickup time - 7 a.m. - means that children arrive at the bus stop in twilight, leaving them vulnerable to attack.

As a result, deputies were patrolling the neighborhood in force when the bus arrived Wednesday morning, and as it dropped off children that afternoon.

Greater Clark County Schools Superintendent Andrew Melin sent an email alert to parents connected to Jeffersonville High School and its feeder schools Tues afternoon.

"Please be diligent in informing your child to be aware of their surroundings while walking to and from their bus stop," the email advised. "Reinforce the steps to take if they are approached by a stranger."

"I'd be with them at the bus stop," Stone said. "I was overprotective of my children, growing up."

The teenager's guardian - her great aunt - told us off-camera that family members will be driving her niece to Jeffersonville High when she's able to return.

"It's left her numb," the guardian said. "She's not talking about it. Please, just keep her in your thoughts."

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