Police seek public’s help

Published 9:01 pm Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Troy Police are stepping up patrols and asking the public for help as they continue to search for the man who abducted and attacked a Troy University student late Monday night.

“We’re continuing to follow-up leads and increasing our patrols in the evening and at night,” said Sgt. Benny Scarbrough.

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In fact, he said, officers have been stopping individuals seen walking on city streets at night, conducting field interviews, and even checking out abandoned houses and buildings, in hopes of finding the suspect.

“We’re making our presence known,” he said.

Police have said that a 20-year-old woman was abducted from her residence on Smith Street sometime after about 9:30 p.m. Monday. She was beaten, stabbed and abandoned on a remote stretch of County Road 7735 in the Needmore community nearly four hours later when her vehicle – a 2006 silver Chevrolet Cobalt – ran out of gas. She walked approximately a quarter of a mile to a residence, where homeowners helped her and called 911. As of Wednesday, Scarbrough said the victim was in stable condition in a Montgomery hospital.

Police have identified the suspect only as an African-American man, of average to tall height and average to stocky build, who wore dark clothing and a toboggan at the time of the attack. Investigators are asking the public for help in identifying him.

“By her being abducted from her residence on Smith Street, which is fairly congested at times, we have to believe someone may have seen something or seen this individual walking around … It’s possible hers may not have been the first house he went to,” Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas said Tuesday afternoon.

Because of that, Scarbrough said police are asking specifically “for people to call police if they had anyone come to their house, particularly late at night, knocking on their door … and particularly in the past week.”

Concerned citizens can call the police department at 334-566-0500; the Secret Witness Line at 334-566-5555; or the Pike County Sheriff’s Department at 334-566-4347.

Thomas said the Sheriff’s Department is offering a cash reward for information that leads to an arrest.

Officers also are struggling with a dual concern in the wake of the attack: citizens’ safety.

“My first concern is for the public’s safety, and my second is for our investigation,” Scarbrough said. “And there’s probably a hair that splits them.”

Because of that concern, both Scarbrough and Thomas on Wednesday echoed cautions they had issued earlier this week:

• Don’t open doors to strangers, particularly late at night. “We’re not advocating that someone answer the door,” Scarbrough said. “But if you have an opportunity to see who the person is, to get a description, that is helpful.” He said call 911 if concerned.

• Leave a porch light on throughout the night. “Sometimes that’s all it takes to discourage someone from coming to your house,” Scarbrough said.

• Travel in groups, whenever possible. “That’s just a good habit to have,” Scarbrough said. “Have workers park beside each other so if they’re getting off work they can walk out together.”

• Use the buddy system to notify others of your whereabouts at all times.

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times. “If something causes an alarm or causes you to feel uncomfortable, call the police and tell them,” Scarbrough said.

He said use the tools you have at hand to gather information. “Something that the majority of people have are those cell phones, and the majority of those phones have cameras on them,” he said. “Take a picture; that tells a story and provides a description.”

• Most important, don’t hesitate to call 911 or the police or sheriff’s department directly if you’re uneasy, nervous or concerned.

“Pick up the phone and call us,” Thomas said. “That’s what we’re here for.”