MANATEE — Detectives are searching for the man who kidnapped and raped a 5-year-old girl in Bradenton, according to the Manatee Sheriff’s Office.
The girl was playing with another child about noon Monday in the Wayside Glen Mobile Home Park, 5120 14th St. W., when she was approached by an unknown man.
The suspect lured the child to the India Bazaar store, 5112 14th St. W., then to a vacant mobile home at the Aloha Estates Mobile Home Park, 5310 14th St. W.
"The victim was held against will, choked and sexually battered at that location,” a news release states. The child managed to escape and told a family member about the attack.
“We are here to ask for the public’s help to identify this predator that attacked this little girl,” Sheriff Brad Steube said a press conference late Tuesday morning. “We want this guy, we want him now.”
Steube says the sheriff’s office is ready to catch him.
“We are coming for you, we are hunting you,” Steube said.
The girl had been playing with a friend and when the friend left to get something, the suspect took advantage, according to sheriff's Capt. Todd Shear of the Child Protection Services Division.
“We believe he lured away by promising her candy,” Shear said.
The suspect took the girl to Indian Bazaar and is seen on surveillance video at about 12:15 p.m. buying her candy.
The girl was then taken to one of the abandoned mobile homes at Aloha Estates, where the assault occurred.
“He then left that residence and tried to board one of our county buses,” Steube said.
Video surveillance from 12:45 p.m. shows the suspect attempted to get on a southbound 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.”
The girl’s parents were home at the time of the assault.
“She was already treated and is home now,” Steube said.
The sheriff's office waited about 12 hours before releasing information about the case.
Steube said it took detectives that long to gather the video evidence and to conduct interviews. At Aloha Estates, many neighbors woke up Tuesday shocked and startled by news of the incident. Jesse Suarez was having her morning cigarette when she first learned what had happened so close to her home.
“I’m scared, and I’m an adult,” Suarez said.
Suarez said most who live in the community have families.
“There are a lot of children that live around here,” Suarez said. “Nothing like this has ever happen here.”
Other neighbors woke to a crime scene behind their homes. One couple, who asked to remain anonymous, said they found out what had happened when the sheriff’s office taped off three vacant trailers behind their home.
“This is really irking me because it’s a child involved,” she said.
The couple say children often play up and down the entire community, despite the many vacant units that often attract homeless.
“A 5-year-old child, how do you have the nerve, a child, a child,” she said. “This really upset me.”
Detectives were able to obtain security video of the suspect trying to board a Manatee County Area Transit bus as he tried to flee the area.
The suspect is said to be a male 30 to 45 years old, standing 5 feet, 10 inches tall and weighing 220 pounds, with a muscular build. He also is said to have short hair or is balding. He was last seen wearing baggy blue jean shorts, no shirt and dark-colored tennis shoes, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
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.