Police seek Samaritan in unsolved trail assault

By CATHY LOGG

Herald Writer

EVERETT — Had a jogger and his dog not made a timely appearance on the Interurban Trail, Everett police would have been investigating the murder of a 14-year-old girl instead of an assault.

Police are eager to talk to the jogger, who hasn’t come forward, Detective Gary Fortin said. The man is not a suspect, but investigators hope he saw something that could help them solve the case in which the Cascade High School freshman nearly died Oct. 9.

"He could have seen something that to him meant nothing, but to us would mean a whole bunch," Fortin said.

He asked the jogger to call him at 425-257-8504.

The attack occurred shortly after 6 a.m. on the trail just north of 112th Street SE as the girl walked to a friend’s house on her way to school. She was stabbed repeatedly and choked, police said.

The girl remains in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. She could be released this week if doctors can lower her fever and she regains her appetite, Fortin said.

"She’s a tough little girl," he said. "She seems to be handling it as well as you can possibly imagine. The fact that she can recall details of her attacker is a sign of how she’s doing."

Still, her recovery is going to be a long process, Fortin said.

Her spirits have been bolstered by the school and community’s response.

"Her room was just wall-to-wall banners and posters from students, teachers, the community," he said. "She has had a tremendous amount of public support."

The attacker may have heard the jogger and his dog approaching. He suddenly fled north along the trail, Fortin said. Moments later, the jogger appeared and went to the girl, telling her to hold on and he’d get help. He and his medium-sized, brown dog with lighter spots then disappeared.

Another man came along, saw the girl and ran to his apartment to call 911 before returning to stay with the girl and direct medics, Fortin said.

In the hospital, the girl described her attack to detectives.

She was walking down the trail — the first time she’d gone that way before school — when "this person appeared," Fortin said.

"He followed her," the detective said. "She kept looking back at him."

After he’d followed her for several hundred feet, he suddenly grabbed her from behind, Fortin said.

"It does not sound like a first-time crime," Fortin said. "One of the things that makes this assault unusual is that without any conversation at all, this person went right to a lethal assault. Percentage-wise, it’s somewhat rare."

The "blitz-type" attack came so fast that the girl had no opportunity to scream, Fortin said.

The man said little or nothing during the attack, which lasted only a few minutes, he said.

It appears the attacker did not sexually assault or rob her, he said.

"I’m thoroughly convinced, as is everyone else, that if he hadn’t been interrupted, this would have been a homicide. If not for the medical care at the scene and her strong constitution, she’d have died," he said.

Police have finished searching near the trail and found no weapon.

Detectives believe the knife used in the attack was a butcher- or kitchen-type knife, Fortin said.

"It was a knife with a fairly substantial blade" and a black handle, he said.

The girl remembered the attack and her assailant, but couldn’t recall the specific lines of his face, so the police artist couldn’t age the drawing, which looks like a man in his 20s, Fortin said.

"She was on the verge of tears when the final composite was put to her," he said. "We feel that all the physical characteristics are accurate."

Two transient men who were camping near the trail and were questioned by police are not suspects, Fortin said.

Police have received a steady flow of tips, from as far away as Arkansas.

The girl described her attacker as in his 30s with grayish, "spiky" hair.

Police described the assailant as a white man, 40 to 50 years old, about 6 feet 1 inch tall, 160 to 180 pounds, with a light complexion. His hair, a dirty blond fading to gray, was long, stringy and unkempt, and he had a couple of days’ growth of beard. He appeared unbathed, had bad breath, and wore a long-sleeved, red plaid shirt with a T-shirt underneath, blue jeans with a hole in the left knee and dark-colored athletic shoes. He also has a blue cross tattooed on the skin of his left hand between the index finger and thumb, Fortin said.

Detectives ask anyone with information about the incident to call the Everett Police Department tip line at 425-257-8450.

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