JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Police continue to ask the public for help finding a man who they believe has assaulted at least three women in Jacksonville over the last two years.
Lt. Sharon Scott, with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office special assault unit, said that the three attacks on women over the last two years appear to be connected to the same man, according to investigators.
She released a composite sketch of the attacker and asked other women who might have been approached by him or anyone who believes they know who he is to call police or Crime Stoppers.
The first attack was in October 2015, when a woman woke up in a dumpster with her pants down and believed she had been raped. The last thing she remembered was partying on Philips Highway north of Emerson Street, police said.
Four months later, a woman told police she was raped after she accepted a ride from a man in the area of Interstate 10 and Lane Avenue. She said he drove her to Watts Street, an industrial area near McCoys Creek, threatened her with a gun and raped her.
In October 2016, another woman said she was forced into a dark vehicle at 8th Street and Myrtle Avenue by a man with a handgun. She said he took her to the same area of Watts Street and raped her.
The attacker was described as a short, stocky dark-skinned black man, 30-45 years old, with a low, wavy haircut. He had a large tattoo on his calf. The victims told police that he smelled like stinky water or perhaps a dog.
All the victims describe him driving a dark or black sedan with tinted windows.
"This is an extremely challenging case and my detectives have not been able to speak to some of the victims to confirm some of the details," Scott said. "The crimes have been widespread in type and victimology."
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said it's not unusual to have a series of sexual assaults not be linked to the same attacker for some time and that the actual number of victims may be even greater.
"Usually, when it comes to sex crimes, there are far more victims out there than actually come forward for so many different reasons," Smith said. "It's a very under-reported crime."
Smith also stressed why it's so important to find the attacker as quickly as possible.
"Usually, when someone commits a sexual assault, they do it in the area near where they live, somewhere in that area, because they're comfortable with that area. It's really unusual for someone to come from another side of town or from another city," Smith said. "The one thing I should tell people is that, at night, be with someone. These crimes rarely, if ever, occur when the victim is with someone. They try to find someone who is alone so that they can't fight."
Others in Jacksonville echoed that advice.
"Can't be too careful. Can't get lax. Try not to be alone in bad places," said Win Reither, an Avondale resident.
After hearing about the manhunt, Reither said, he plans to make sure the women in his family are on alert.
"It really concerns me. I have a daughter that's 40 years old. She has five children and her life is precious and her future is precious," Reither said. "We all in Jacksonville should be concerned about this."
Crime Stoppers will give a cash reward of up to $3,000 for any tip that leads to the arrest of the attacker. Callers to 866-845-TIPS can remain anonymous and still receive a reward.
Anyone who is currently or has been the victim of sexual violence is encouraged to contact the Women's Center of Jacksonville, where they can receive support, advocacy and counseling. Victims' privacy is protected. For more information or to seek help, call 904-722-3000 or the 24/7 Rape Crisis Hotline at 904-721-7273 or visit womenscenterofjax.org/rape-recovery-and-prevention.