JULINGTON CREEK, Fla. – The uncle of a woman attacked at a Julington Creek park Tuesday night is begging for information that might help identify his niece's attacker.
St. Johns County deputies said a young man or possibly a teenager hit a 39-year-old woman over the head about 7:15 p.m. Tuesday as she was leaving the bathroom at Julington Creek Plantation Park, just off Race Track Road.
The woman, who was on the phone when she was hit, fell to the ground and the attacker hit her several more times until she called for help, deputies said.
A witness walking her dog said she saw the attacker hitting the woman while she was on the ground, and yelled out. The attacker stopped and ran off, deputies said.
Another witness told deputies that she was on the phone with the woman and heard her telling someone to “get off her.” She said when she arrived five minutes later, she found the woman covered in blood.
The woman suffered a cut to the right side of her head and needed more than 40 stitches at Baptist South Hospital, her uncle said.
Deputies used a K-9 officer to try to track the woman's attacker, described as a high-school-aged white male wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, but had no luck.
“He was wearing a hoodie, white shorts and some raggedy tennis shoes. That's all she remembers. He took off running,” said the woman's uncle, who asked to be called Jaguar Dan, because the attacker hasn't been caught. “I think she is still in shock right now that this happened to her. She's never been around this kind of atrocity.”
Dan said the woman is back home and recovering, and he hopes someone will come forward and identify the attacker.
"Cowards live every day, and this one is a coward," Dan said. "Attacking a defenseless lady."
Deputies said several sporting events with hundreds of people in attendance were happening in the surrounding fields, but no one at those events saw the attack.
While the ball fields are lit up at night, witnesses expressed concerns about the restrooms not being well-lit.
That's why News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith recommended always using the buddy system.
"Take someone with you when you're going to the restroom, or someplace where other people are not going to be. That way you have some type of protection or someone aware of anything that could happen," Smith said. "You need to be very careful."
News4Jax noticed Thursday that several lights at the county park are broken or burnt out.
"At this point it is early on in the process, and so we are focusing on the lighting itself and working with the sheriff's office to see if anything could have been prevented," St. Johns County spokesman Michael Ryan. "The two lights that we had notified as being out are JEA lights. And we are working with an agency to ensure that the lighting is up to par."
Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Chuck Mulligan said there was neither a robbery nor sexual assault, which causes detectives to wonder about the attacker's motive.
"Is this some version of the knockout game that many of us heard about some time ago? Or is it someone in her life, or some individual, (who) has a grudge against her and chose this particular location?" Mulligan said.
He said the deputies are still investigating the attack and have increased patrols in the area.
The Sheriff's Office asked that anyone at the park between 8-9 p.m. Tuesday and shot video or took photos, take a look back at the footage and see if there is anything suspicious in the background. If so, please call the Sheriff's Office at 904-824-8304.