Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No arrest made in rape case

Police yesterday night were working on a sketch of a man they say raped a 20-year-old woman who was abducted Sunday night after working out at a local gym.

Police were following "several promising leads" in the case, but had not made an arrest, Capt. Robert Lawson said at a news conference Monday afternoon.

The 20-year-old victim suffered "significant injuries" consistent with a rape and struggle and was being treated yesterday at Kimball Medical Center, Lawson said, adding that he expected the victim would be admitted there.

Her assailant was able to escape detection even though investigators were in the immediate vicinity around 5 a.m. yesterday when he returned the victim to the spot where he had abducted her about seven hours earlier the parking area of TrimGym Fitness Center on Madison Avenue, located in the rear of ShopRite plaza, Lawson said.

"The (police) presence was in and around the front of the store," Lawson said. "The victim was dropped off to the rear. This is a large ShopRite plaza."

The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office released a description of the abductor and the vehicle he used.

The assailant is a white man in his mid-20s to early 30s, between 5-foot-7 and 5-foot-9, with a thin or medium build, and closely cropped, brown hair, Executive Assistant Prosecutor Robert A. Gasser said. The description varied slightly from one released earlier yesterday, when Gasser described the man as having a shaved head.

The suspect was driving a green Jeep Cherokee with gray trim and alloy wheels. The vehicle's model year was between 1996 and 1998, Gasser said. It had New York or New Jersey license plates.

Lawson said Lakewood police were talking to police in New York to determine if the Lakewood incident bore any connection to several recent attempts to abduct Orthodox Jewish girls ranging in age from 10 to 17 in the Borough Park section of Brooklyn.

The victim in the Lakewood case is Orthodox, he said.

Mayor Meir Lichtenstein, who attended the news conference, said authorities had no information that the incident was a bias crime, but he said police had not yet finished interviewing the victim.

Lawson said the motive was not robbery, since the victim's purse and cellular telephone were left in her unlocked sport-utility vehicle near the spot where she was abducted after finishing her workout at the gym about 8:45 p.m. Sunday.

"His intent was to attack her, not perform a robbery," Lawson said.

Police do not believe the victim knew the man, he said. They have no information that a weapon was used, he said.

Police began a missing person investigation about 10:30 p.m. Sunday after being alerted by the victim's family, Lawson said.

Authorities have not been able to find eyewitnesses and are asking anyone who may have seen the incident to call the detective bureau at (732) 363-0200, Ext. 5332 or 5334.

The fact that the woman was dropped off at the abduction location "is a valuable clue to the (modus operandi) of the suspect," Lawson said. "It shows he has some concern for the victim of this crime."

After she was dropped off, the victim went back inside the gym, and someone there called police, Lawson said.

He could not say whether the assailant had been stalking the gym, waiting for women to leave.

Jerome Perlstein, president of TrimGym Fitness Centers, said the gym maintains separate hours for men and women to accommodate Orthodox Jewish patrons who work out separately.


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