Four women now say a man tried to kidnap them in Naples Park after the sheriff’s office released a sketch of the suspect.
All four incidents happened Monday and Tuesday, and one woman got shoved into the man’s van, but she was able to escape.
One neighbor who didn’t want to go on camera or give her name for fear of her own safety, said she heard the screams from one of the victims.
The North Naples neighborhood where the suspect struck is a quiet one, filled with retirees, year-round residents and vacationers, so everyone there was shocked to learn that man tried not once, but possibly four times to lure women into his van.
Mark Satt and his wife’s yearly vacation down to Collier County has been unusual so far, given what he says he saw Tuesday night on 6th Street North between 97th and 98th Avenue in Naples Park.
“There was some activity driving up and down the street with a lot of officers with cars, and then the next morning we happen to see that a lady had been accosted at this area,” Satt said.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office released a sketch Wednesday of a man they say grabbed a jogger off the street Tuesday night and held her in his gray van.
“It was very frightening because it’s such a great neighborhood,” Satt said.
Deputies say the suspect tried three more times by asking women for help finding a lost dog.
“There was an initial report of the criminal act and then there was subsequent reports where the individual saw the composite and they said it was the same individual,” said Sgt. Darion Higdon with the CCSO.
The sheriff’s office has several leads. They’re also handing out fliers and patrolling the area.
Longtime community members like Frank Santaromita are on guard.
“The word I would use is brazen. You know, broad daylight in a very populated neighborhood,” Santaromita said. “I mean, I think it’s atrocious, I really do.”
We also spoke to a witness named Melissa, who didn’t want us to use her last name. She told us she was sitting outside her home at the time of the incident.
She lives right across the street from where one of the women was grabbed and thrown into a van Tuesday.
“I saw the woman who was, I guess, attacked across the street here,” Melissa said. “It’s right in front of my house … She looked distressed, I mean, going through something like that.”
But what Melissa did not know that night is that three other women had a man come up to them too.
“That’s what freaks me out the most is that he is clearly patrolling this area, and it’s scary I’m out every night
Thursday, Collier County deputies were going door-to-door passing out flyers and showing the sketch of the man believed to be involved.
“What’s great, they’re trying to keep the community safe,” Alana Lowenschuss said.
Now, the whole neighborhood is on the lookout for him.
“I [definitely] looked at the sketch, and I’m keeping my eyes open, very aware of my surroundings at this point,” Melissa said.
Neighbors want to make sure everyone remains safe in while outside in the community.
“They’ll get their man,” Rick MacClugage said. “I have a wife and a daughter, and when she walks the dogs, you know I tell her to bring mace with her. You have to be prepared because there are crazy people out there.”
The victims’ ages range from 15 to 40. Deputies say they believe the man is “comfortable” in the Naples Park neighborhood but did not say if he is from there.
The suspect is described as a white male in his 30s with a buzzcut hairstyle and facial stubble. He is 5’9″ or 5’10” tall and weighs between 190 and 210 pounds.
If you have any video that may have captured the incidents or the van, contact the Collier County Sheriff’s Office at 239-252-9300.
Staying safe from a predator
As more women come forward, the suspect is becoming more violent and aggressive.
WINK News Safety and Security Specialist Rich Kolko spoke with a fellow former FBI agent to get a look into the mindset of the suspect and how women can protect themselves.
First and foremost, stay alert. These kidnap attempts are rare, but it’s nerve-wracking for the community – and scary.
“Kidnappers and predators look for vulnerable people, people that aren’t aware of their surroundings, and often use stories to try and lure somebody in, to get them to trust them and then be able to take advantage of the situation,” said Jim Derrane, Ph.D., former FBI agent now with the Eagle Security Group.
Those stories can include needing help to find a lost dog or asking to use your cell phone.
Derrane has an idea of the type of person who would do this.
“Somebody who has sociopathic tendencies; they are very self-centered and they don’t see potential victims as other people, they see them as a means to an end to effect whatever outcome they are looking for.”
Why would someone pick a certain area?
“He’s basically marked that as his territory and is looking for targets of opportunity and vulnerable people he can prey on in the area.”
That’s why the sheriff’s office Crime Prevention Unit educates the public on how to stay safe.
“Make sure you just pay attention, make sure that you are not alone if it all possible, especially at night,” said Lt. Rebecca Gonzalez.
Take common-sense precautions: Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll return. Your best prevention tool in this situation is a fully-charged cell phone, but remember, it’s difficult to be aware if you’re using headsets with music.
And if you find yourself in a dangerous situation, “we would advise that you don’t go quietly. Scream, yell. There were some neighbors that heard some commotion, and if you are a neighbor and you do hear something like that, I would urge you to pay attention and be aware and call it in,” Gonzalez said.