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 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 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.
Yesterday, 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, warning parents to take precautions.
"It's really important that children come to school on time and follow their prearranged walking routes," said Deputy Superintendent Kenneth Lawson.
"If they are aware of anybody being somewhere they don't belong, they should immediately report it to an adult," Lawson said.
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.
Police advise children never to walk alone, even if they are late to school.
Anyone with information about yesterday's incident is asked to call Arundel County police at 410-222-8610.