3rd woman attacked near Morgan Hill store

March 27, 2009 8:09:26 PM PDT
Morgan Hill police today are asking residents to be cautious while shopping after a third assault in a Safeway parking lot was reported Thursday.

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The suspect and the approach of the attack were similar to two other incidents reported last week, according to Special Operations Officer David Swing.

"We're going on the assumption that it is the same person," he said.

An 18-year-old Gilroy woman told police on Thursday that a man attacked her while she was still sitting in her car around 8:40 p.m., shortly after arriving at the parking lot of the Safeway Foods located at 840 E. Dunne Ave.

According to police, the suspect entered the rear driver-side door of the woman's car as she was retrieving a folding pocketknife from her glove compartment. The man grabbed her right hand, police said, and struggled to bring her hand up to her throat and place the knife blade on her neck.

The woman began screaming during the struggle, police said, and the man fled northbound without causing her serious injury.

Swing said the woman was reaching for the small knife because she had heard reports of other recent assaults in Safeway parking lots and wanted to be safe while walking inside the store.

On March 19, a 36-year-old Morgan Hill woman reported she was followed to her car in the parking lot of the East Dunne Avenue Safeway, shortly before 11 p.m.

About 30 minutes later, police received a call that another woman was attacked in a Safeway parking lot, this time at the 235 Tennant Station location. The woman, a 46-year-old San Martin resident, told police the man used a stun gun on the back of her neck and head. The man fled when a passerby heard the woman's screams.

All three women offered similar descriptions of their attacker. Police are searching for a man in his late 20s or early 30s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall, and weighing about 200 pounds. In each case the man also entered, or tried to enter, the victim's car through the rear driver-side door in a Safeway parking lot after dark.

Police are asking residents to be cautious when walking or driving in shopping center parking lots. Swing recommended parking in well-lit areas and remaining aware of surroundings while walking.

Police have distributed e-mail warnings to residents in Morgan Hill, unincorporated southern Santa Clara County, and other nearby locations.

Anyone with information on these attacks should call Morgan Hill Police Detective Beilmann at (408) 779-2101 or the anonymous tip line at (408) 947-7867.

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