Sonoma Co. Sheriff warns female motorists

April 20, 2009 6:01:11 PM PDT
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department is warning motorists to avoid pulling over on rural roads at night after a woman was reportedly assaulted in her vehicle Saturday by a man driving behind her who convinced her to get out and check for a leak.

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The 46-year-old assault victim told sheriff's investigators she had been driving west on Bodega Highway near Sebastopol, when at about 1:30 a.m. she turned onto Sexton Road and a vehicle behind her began flashing its high-beam headlights. She said the vehicle drove up alongside hers and claimed there was a problem with her car, then continued to follow her and flash his headlights.

The woman pulled over in an unincorporated rural part of the county and got out to check her vehicle. The suspect also pulled over, exited his vehicle and told her he had seen fluid leaking from the back of hers.

Investigators reported that when the woman tried to get back into her vehicle, the man forced himself into the doorway and attacked her. He put his hands around her neck and threatened to hurt her if she resisted. The woman said she was able to defend herself and drove immediately to the Sebastopol Police Department where sheriff's investigators were called in to take her report.

Detectives from the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit are investigating a possible connection with several similar attacks and attempted attacks reported in the county since the end of 2008. Previous occurrences of a man getting lone female drivers to pull over to attack them were reported in November in the Sonoma Valley area and in December in Rincon Valley area.

Three more incidents were reported north of Santa Rosa between Jan. 6 and Feb. 12, according to the sheriff's department.

The suspect in Saturday's assault was described as a man with a medium complexion and dark hair, around 5 feet 6 inches tall with a stocky build. He was wearing a black windbreaker, dark pants and a dark-colored knit beanie. His vehicle was described as a dark four-door sedan.

The sheriff's department is urging motorists not to stop for anyone on a rural roadway, especially at night, and to drive to a well-lit and populated area and call 911 or the sheriff's department at (707) 565-2121.

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