By Doug Esser Associated Press
PUYALLUP — A 7-year-old girl was playing outside with other children at an apartment community Wednesday evening in Puyallup when she was apparently lured into nearby woods and sexually assaulted, police said.
She was found choked and unable to walk but gave police enough information to arrest a 14-year-old neighbor boy, said Capt. Dalan Brokaw and Chief Bryan Jeter.
The girl was taken to Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma in serious condition and is expected to survive. Her parents were with her Thursday morning.
“She did have quite extensive injuries and was not able to walk under her own power,” Jeter said. “She’s an extremely brave and strong young girl to be able to survive this brutal attack.”
Investigators were waiting for a medical report to confirm suspicions of a sexual assault, he said.
It was a warm summer evening and children at the Glenbrooke apartment community were playing outside when the girl disappeared about 6 p.m. Wednesday. Family and friends searched for about two hours before reporting her missing.
“My guess is they thought she was in the complex somewhere. After a couple hours, it was not normal and they panicked a little bit,” Jeter said.
Police went door-to-door in the complex and checked cars in the parking lot. A police dog from the Normandy Park Police Department was brought in and it picked up a scent from a tennis shoe that was found on a trail.
The dog led its handler and searchers into a nearby wooded area where they found the girl early Thursday, after midnight.
The girl, who had been choked, was able to identify the suspect by name, Jeter said. They live close to each other but not in the same building.
Officers served a search warrant at 4:45 a.m. Thursday and arrested the teen. Investigators in Puyallup still questioned him at midmorning and he was to be booked into Remann Hall, the Pierce County juvenile detention facility in Tacoma. He’ll likely be charged with assault and other counts.
Detectives are asking residents of the complex about what they may have seen.
“It appears he had some story about finding an injured animal in the woods to lure her away,” Brokaw said. Investigators are trying to determine whether the girl was abducted or went willingly, since she knows the suspect, Jeter said.
Police had previous contact with the teen a week earlier when he was a victim in an unrelated assault, Jeter said.
The attack is a reminder to children and parents to be wary, even in their own neighborhood, officers said.
“Stay in a group and don’t wander off with someone, even if you think you trust them,” Jeter said. “If you’re not comfortable, listen to your intuition, find an adult or go home.”