18-year-old violated at Dollar Tree parking lot deals with after effects

An 18-year-old woman is dealing with trauma after she said she was publicly violated in the parking lot of a Dollar Tree in south Fort Myers.

The young woman fears this is someone who would not be afraid to commit the same act again.

”I know exactly what he looks like,” she said. “He followed down three isles. I got a perfect view of his face. I remember it.”

The woman didn’t want to show her face on camera, but her eyes were filled with tears when she told us what happened while she walked out of the discount store into the parking lot.

“He really scared me from going anywhere because of what he did,” she said.

The woman said she didn’t know the man was following her at first when she was at the Dollar Tree.

“He kind of ran into me,” she said. “And I said, ‘Oh, sorry. And he said, ‘No problem.’ I didn’t think anything of that.”

It wasn’t until she left the store and felt the man approach her from behind.

“It’s sexual,” she said. “They’re touching you in a private area, and you don’t want it.”

She said something like this can impact a woman’s life.

“Because it does cause damage, especially young girls,’” she said. “It really causes damage because I’ve been thinking about it every day since.”

And the 18-year-old grew up with a father who is a police officer, and she told us he is is still in law enforcement up north, anxiously waiting for new details in her investigation. She also believes her father would handle her case more urgently.

Lee County Sheriff’s Office has not released an expert rendering of the suspect at this time. A forensic expert told us it may be too early in the investigation, and they need to look through security footage at the discount store. And it’s also possible they might not think the suspect is a serious threat.

And Dr. David Thomas, an FGCU professor with a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, told us Lee County deputies believe her case is important, but it may not be an immediate focus for them.

“For the victim, it’s a huge deal,” Thomas said. “But for law enforcement, depending on what they have going on, this may not be such a big deal.”

The 18-year-old said the man was brazen enough to do it in the middle of the day and fears he will attack someone else.

“I think if he would do it in broad daylight, he would do it again,” she said.

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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