10-year-old girl says man chased her near Nassau County church

Girl’s mother tells News4Jax she confronted man in parking lot after daughter fled home on bike

YULEE, Fla. – A 10-year-old girl said a man approached and chased her in the Yulee area on Sunday, according to the Nassau County Sheriff’s Office.

The Sheriff’s Office said the incident was reported about 1 p.m. Sunday near the Mercy Hill Church on Miner Road.

The girl told News4Jax it happened while she was riding her bicycle to the mailbox. According to the Sheriff’s Office, the man was hiding in some bushes, emerged from the shrubbery and said, “Hey, girl.” The child took off on her bike, and the man chased her, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“I was going to get back on my bike. I saw a man come out of the bushes,” the girl recalled. “I jumped on my bike and I started going really fast and I came home.”

The girl’s mother, Christina Waterstraat, said she was at home with her other three children when she heard her daughter screaming for help.

“She came running and saying that a man had chased her from the end of our road, down into our driveway, and when I came out to see if he was still here, he was in the parking lot next to us. I tried to confront him verbally,” Waterstraat said. “I asked him what was he doing, what business does he have chasing my daughter or trying to talk to her.”

Waterstraat said the man then ran through the church parking lot and across the street into the Sand Hickory neighborhood.

Waterstraat said she’s is grateful her daughter knew to run and that she made it back from the mailbox.

“All I could think is I was happy she made it home,” Waterstraat said.

Deputies said they canvassed the area and were unable to find the man, who was described as having short dark hair and wearing light-colored baggy pants and a black shirt.

News4Jax on Monday reached out to the church and neighbors to see if they had surveillance video, but no one did.

News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said the girl did the right thing by immediately running for help. He said children in this situation should run, fight or make noise to bring attention to the situation while trying to get away. Jefferson also reminds children to never accept a ride, gifts or candy from a stranger.

The 10-year-old said she wants other children “to be safe and to be on the lookout.”

The case is pending as detectives work to gather more information. Anyone with information about the case is asked to call detectives at 904-548-4073 or 904-548-4036.