‘It’s scary’: Umatilla community on high alert as deputies search for rape suspect

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Lake County deputies are searching for the man they say sexually assaulted a girl who was walking home from school.


It’s been five days since the attack and the sheriff’s office is hoping someone can identify the suspect.

Deputies say the victim was walking home from Umatilla High School Thursday afternoon when a man in a black dually pickup truck asked her if she needed a ride.

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The girl said she got into the truck and was driven to an area east of Alexander Springs.

According to the sheriff’s office, the girl said she was forced out of the truck and into the wood line where she was raped and then left there.

SEEKING ANY INFORMATION On January 20th a juvenile female was walking from Umatilla High School at roughly 2:30 PM when...

Posted by Lake County Sheriff's Office on Monday, January 24, 2022

“It’s pretty scary to be honest,” Umatilla High School student Melanie Essig said. “You don’t know who that could happen to...a close friend, yourself even.”

Noah Lundy is a parent who described news of the attack as surprising.

“Especially around here in Umatilla,” Lundy said. “Usually everybody’s watching everything.”

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That’s why the sheriff’s office is hopeful the community can lead them to their suspect.

“It was an impulsive decision,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Fred Jones said of the attack.

The victim described the suspect as a tall, white or mixed-race man in his late 20s with a skinny frame. She said he had a long, black beard and dark, messy hair.

The victim also described the suspect as wearing dark blue jeans, tennis shoes, and a dark t-shirt with a white design on the front.

Investigators say the suspect’s truck was relatively new and had a back seat, which the victim described as being noticeably messy. She also recalled seeing a red composite notebook on the front passenger floorboard.

According to the sheriff’s office, the truck also had light window tinting, a black leather interior, and was lifted with off-road tires and silver step bars on the sides.

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The truck was also pulling a construction-style trailer.

The sheriff’s office is hoping someone will recognize the truck from the description.

They’re asking anyone with information that may help identify the suspect to call them at 352-343-9529 or submit tips anonymously through Central Florida Crimeline.

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