Girl, 13, reports assault attempt

She was walking to school

warning sent to parents

`It scares me to death'

Man called to her, carried her into woods, she says


October 02, 2003|By Julie Bykowicz and Laura Loh | Julie Bykowicz and Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

A 13-year-old Old Mill Middle School-North pupil told police that a stranger grabbed her, carried her into the woods and tried to sexually assault her yesterday morning, prompting school officials to issue a warning to parents of other young walkers.

The incident shook parents and children in the neighborhood, where another Old Mill teen-ager, Lisa Kathleen Haenel, was stabbed to death a decade ago during her morning walk to school. That crime is unsolved.

"These things are few and far between, but it only takes one time to end up like little Lisa," said parent Debbie Long, adding that she has never let either of her daughters walk to or from the campus of Old Mill middle and high schools in Millersville.

Anne Arundel County police said they were looking for the man described by the girl in yesterday's incident. Police, who would not identify the 13-year- old, gave this account of the incident:

Late to school, the girl was hurrying down Shetlands Lane near Century Towne Road when she heard a man behind her say, "Hey, come here." She ignored him and kept walking. Then she felt the man's arms close around her and carry her, with her book bag, about 15 feet into the woods.

Once he had taken the girl into the woods, the man demanded that she remove her pants. She told him she needed to stand to do so, and when she did, she ran away, police said. The girl found a group of maintenance workers on Summerwind Way, and the workers called 911 about 9:30 a.m., police said.

The girl said the man was wearing a blue ski mask and black T-shirt and that he told her he had a gun. The girl described him as a black man in his 30s, 6 feet tall and heavyset.

Officers used police dogs and two helicopters to search the area, but did not find anyone, said Lt. Joseph Jordan, a county police spokesman. They did find the girl's abandoned book bag where she said she had been taken.

Yesterday afternoon, principals at the two middle schools and the high school at the Old Mill Educational Complex made announcements about the incident and sent home letters to parents, warning them to take precautions.

"It's really important that children come to school on time and follow their prearranged walking routes. If they are aware of anybody being somewhere they don't belong, they should immediately report it to an adult," said Deputy Superintendent Kenneth Lawson.

Old Mill teachers and administrators will be "extra vigilant" over the next few days, especially before school and after dismissal, Lawson said, and additional county police officers will patrol the area.

As the middle schools were dismissed at 3:40 p.m. yesterday, two assistant principals with two-way radios stood watch at Shetlands Lane, a path on which many children walk home. Children streamed down the tree-lined road in pairs and groups.

Latiza Rivera, 12, and classmate Zachary Holzman, 11, who said they usually walk separately, walked together yesterday. Latiza said she had a five-minute walk and seemed concerned when Zachary said his walk to Fox Chase was about 20 minutes.

"You better be careful," she warned him.

"I'm walking up by another school, so it's not too bad," he replied, waving her off.

On the whole, the young walkers seemed more worried about what their parents would think than about their safety.

Matt Dupreay, 13, said his mother would "freak" when she learned about yesterday's attack. Eric Nickey, 13, who was walking home with Matt and several other Old Mill Middle School-North pupils, nodded in agreement.

"It scares me to death," said Collette Dix, whose daughter walks 40 minutes to get to Old Mill Middle-North, sometimes by herself if she is unable to meet other walkers.

Long, who sits outside the school in her black Isuzu Rodeo to wait for her daughters after school, said her "instinct as a mother" is to never allow her children to walk.

"It's just scary with all of these woods," Long said.

In the same woods, a white cross with a pink carnation is nailed to a tree in memory of Lisa Haenel, who was a freshman at Old Mill High School. Her naked body was found in January 1993.

Police think she was attacked while walking to school on a path through the woods.

Police have linked the crime to the May 1988 death of Mary Elaine Shereika, 37, a jogger who was found stabbed, choked and raped in the same area. That case also is unsolved.

Police advise children never to walk alone, even if they are late to school.

Anyone with information about yesterday's incident or the Haenel or Shereika cases is asked to call Arundel County police at 410-222-8610.

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