Manatee Sheriff Steube to child rape suspect: 'We're hunting you'

jdeleon@bradenton.comJuly 17, 2013 

MANATEE -- A 5-year-old girl playing outside while her family sat inside their Wayside Glen Mobile Home Park residence never imagined the danger she faced.

A man offering candy coaxed the youngster to come away with him before reportedly kidnapping and raping her.

The little girl did manage to escape her attacker. She was treated at a local hospital and released to her parents.

The search for the alleged rapist continues. The case instantly became a top priority of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

"We are coming for you. We are hunting you," Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Randy Warren said detectives have not been able to identify the suspect despite having surveillance video of him from two separate places.

"We are here to ask for the public's help to identify this predator that attacked this little girl," Steube said at a press conference Tuesday. "We want this guy. We want him now."

The suspect is said to be a male 30 to 45 years old, 5-foot-10, weighing 220 pounds with a muscular build. He has short hair or is balding and was last seen wearing baggy blue jean shorts, no shirt and dark-colored tennis shoes, according to the Sheriff's Office.

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Warren said detectives are following multiple leads.

The victim was playing with another child who left her about noon Monday in the mobile home park at 5120 14th St. W., before the man approached. The suspect lured the child to the India Bazaar store, 5112 14th St. W., where he bought candy, then reportedly took her to a vacant mobile home at the Aloha Estates Mobile Home Park, 5310 14th St. W.

"The victim was held against her will, choked and sexually battered at that location," the MCSO reported.

The child managed to escape and told a family member about the attack, according to Capt. Todd Shear of the Child Protection Services Division.

The suspect is seen on surveillance video at about 12:15 p.m. buying candy at Indian Bazaar. Owner Mukesh Trivedi did not recall the suspect or his victim well.

"There are always kids in here," Trivedi said. "They don't have to cross the street. It's right next door and it's really safe."

Trivedi said he updated his surveillance system 18 months before the abduction.

After the girl was taken to one of the abandoned mobile homes at Aloha Estates, the suspect tried to board a county bus, Steube said. Video surveillance dated 12:45 p.m. shows the suspect failing to board a southbound Manatee County Area Transit bus.

"The bus driver was reluctant to open the door for him. He was holding his shirt and pounding on the bus," Steube said. "He was shouting, 'I want to go to Sarasota,' as he pounded on the bus."

As this was going on, the girl apparently made her escape by running across busy 53rd Avenue.

Neighbor Misty Bell said her 9-year-old cousin saw the victim when she ran crying and screaming to the community entrance. Bell, a 6-year Wayside Glen resident, said her 7-year-old often plays with the victim.

"Everybody knows everybody in here," Bell said. "It's scary to think this could happen."

The community has about 70 school-age children, she said.

"This is a family park," Bell said.

The sheriff's office waited about 12 hours before releasing information about the case. Steube said it took detectives that long to gather video evidence and conduct interviews.

At Aloha Estates, many neighbors woke up Tuesday to be shocked by the news. Jesse Suarez was having her morning cigarette when she learned what happened so close to her home.

"I'm scared, and I'm an adult," Suarez said.

Suarez said most families in the community have children.

"There are a lot of children who live around here," Suarez said. "Nothing like this has ever happened here."

Aloha Estates property manager Manuel Aldan said he knew little about the assault.

"This place has been OK since I have been here nine months now," Aldan said. "I have never had an incident of that type."

The attack took place in one of many vacant, rundown mobile home units.

"Some of the units can be fixed and some cannot," Aldan said.

"I'm just here to take care of the units that are occupied."

Property management company Newby Management of Ellenton is responsible for the community, he said.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 941-747-3011 or Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477.

Jessica De Leon, law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her @JDeLeon1012.

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