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Father of rape victim worries about safety along trail; police crack down

By KBell
Nov. 7, 2011 at 5:07 a.m.

A woman walks along the Lone Tree Hike and Bike Trail on Monday afternoon. A young woman reported to police she was sexually assaulted Saturday evening in the area just north of the Miori Street section of track.

SUSPECT DESCRIPTIONS

Craig said police are bringing in an expert to draw a composite sketch of the two suspects. He gave the following descriptions provided by the victim:

Suspect one: Hispanic man, thin, with short hair, a goatee and tattoos on his face. He was wearing a red T-shirt and red shorts at the time of the attack.

Suspect two: Hispanic man, thin and clean-shaven with short hair. He was wearing a white T-shirt.

If you have any information about the case, call Crime Stoppers at 361-572-4200.

SAFETY TIPS

Be aware of your surroundings

Stay on trails and in well-lit areas

Go with a friend

Take a cell phone

The use of headphones could create a distraction to keep you from being alert to your surroundings

If you feel unsafe in a situation, get out of it immediately

Consider exercising at times when other people are present

If you're wondering if you should call the police, call them

Source: Victoria Police Chief Jeff Craig

The day after a 21-year-old Victoria woman reported being attacked on the Lone Tree Creek Hike and Bike Trail, the victim's father scoured the scene for more than five hours, searching for a sign of the two men suspected of beating and raping his daughter Saturday night.

He didn't find the suspects, but he did find plenty of other women and children walking along the same trail on which his daughter was attacked.

"The only thing I'm worried about right now is people being safe," the father said Monday afternoon. The suspects are still at large, he added. "It doesn't need to happen again."

The Advocate is not releasing the father's name to protect the victim's identity.

The father said his daughter reported seeing two men walking toward her near where the trail intersects with Miori Lane about 9:45 p.m. She turned around to run, but the suspects caught up with her, hit her face and raped her.

She didn't have a phone at the time, so she went home to call the police after the suspects fled into a nearby neighborhood. Her father met her at the hospital, he said.

The Victoria Police Department secured the scene Saturday night and returned with the victim the next morning to further confirm facts and investigate, said Victoria Police Chief Jeff Craig.

Police and canines scoured the scene Monday, too, investigating along a half-mile concrete path north of Miori Lane that meanders between two neighborhoods.

"We're going to be very aggressive in our criminal follow up in this case in order to track down the two suspects," Craig said.

Streets come to a dead end at the trail, and homes back up to the path that is speckled with several light posts.

The 2.1-mile trail follows Lone Tree Creek from East Airline Road to around Victoria East High School. The area where the woman reported being attacked is one of the most populated, with homes on either side of a trail that runs through more remote areas with thick brush.

"In my experience, it is unusual to have a case like this occur and in the area in which it occurred ... which speaks obviously to the perpetrators' mentality, and obviously that's concerning," Craig said.

Residents said they felt secure in their neighborhoods next to a pretty popular trail.

"I think it's safe, well-lit ... I see quite a few people, even in the evening," said Frank Chanek, a 73-year-old who lives with his wife near where the woman reported being attacked.

A steady stream of walkers took to the trail on a windy Monday afternoon. Most were women, and most hadn't heard about the rape reported on the trail they said they frequent almost daily.

The victim's father said he hoped more would be done to inform people of the incident Saturday night.

"I just don't want this to happen to anybody else. I understand the police only have limited resources, they can't be out there all the time," he said.

Craig said since the incident, police have ramped up patrol of the area and canvassed the neighborhood to both inform residents and see if they had any information to contribute to the investigation.

Craig also said he searched a history of incident reports from the hike and bike trail and found no reports of a violent crime like Saturday's. Victoria reports, on average, about 35 rapes per year, though not necessarily aggravated rape or rape by a stranger, Craig said.

"We're considering this a very isolated incident - a very tragic one," Craig said.

After hearing about the attack, Beatrize Benavides, 59, was as much shocked as she was angry to hear two men raped a woman on the trail she walks each day.

"I come every day after work, and I've never seen anything suspicious," she said. "This is ridiculous."

She said she'll either walk with pepper spray from now on or take to walking in her neighborhood.

Another regular to the trail, 27-year-old Danielle Lopez, had heard about the attack and chose to run during the daylight on Monday. She usually runs with a friend after dark because of their schedules, she said.

"You just don't think something like that will happen to you," Lopez said.

While the police continue their investigation, the victim's father is taking his fight to another level.

Monday evening, he said he was heading to dinner with a Victoria City Council member to discuss how to ensure the attack like the one that happened to his daughter doesn't happen to another woman in Victoria.

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