A woman was roughed up during an attempted abduction and sexual assault, and Lake Lotawana police need the public's help in catching the man.
The woman was able to call her boyfriend during the attack. He alerted authorities and the man took off when he could hear the sounds of sirens and the woman tried to alert a passing motorist, authorities said.
The attack occurred about 9 p.m. on May 7. Lake Lotawana police had hoped to catch the man and didn't alert the public until Wednesday afternoon.
Some residents have criticized the police department for withholding the information for two weeks. At least one resident said a man matching the description was seen driving around a nearby neighborhood last week and authorities could have been alerted if residents had known about the attack.
William Magill said crimes typically are carried in the local newspaper and that Lake Lotawana residents should have been told.
Late Thursday afternoon, the police department released a sketch of the suspect. Police Chief Brent Miller said he made the decision to delay the release in an effort to catch the man.
"If it hits the media, there's a chance that if they caught a glimpse of it or somebody heard it on the news that they knew and made a mention to it, they may leave the area before we finished following these leads," he said.
But with no arrest made, Miller decided to ask for the public's help via a news release issued Wednesday afternoon. Officers believe the suspect is a transient who works in the construction industry and hope the sketch will lead to new information.
"Now they may call. And if he's worked for somebody and if he was on payroll then we're going have all the information that we're going to need to track him down," Miller said.
The woman, who is in her early 30s, was traveling on Lansford Road when her vehicle broke down about 200 feet west of Missouri Highway 7.
She said a man who had been following her then stopped and offered help, which she declined. She said he asked her to come back to his van so he could call the authorities. After her refusals, he jerked her ponytail and threw her against her vehicle while pulling out a gun. She fled toward a pile of brush and managed to call her boyfriend.
The suspect pursued her and found her hiding place. He proceeded to beat her and attempted to sexually assault her, police said. She managed to again escape and ran onto Highway 7 as she attempted to flag down a passing car. The frustrated man then took off.
The suspect is described as a white man who stood about 5'11" tall. He had a large frame and was wide at the shoulders. He had well-groomed, dark, collar-length hair. He was about 35 to 50 years old.
"The suspect has discernible pock scars on both sides of his face," Lake Lotawana police said. "The suspect also has a very large scar believed to be on the left side of his face that runs from his eyebrow to his chin."
Police said the man was wearing a dark-colored, long-sleeve shirt, blue jeans and heavy dark-colored work boots that had steel toes.
"The suspect was driving a non-descript, full-size work van, white in color with very bright headlights and possibly a ladder rack on top," according to the news release.
If you have any information, call the TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS or Lake Lotawana police at 816-578-4333.
The woman did not live in Lake Lotawana.
The attack has rattled the residents of the quiet lakeside community.
Michelle Fisher said police should have told residents sooner so they could have passed on anything they may have seen when memories were fresh.
"To know that something like that happened just down the street is kind of disturbing," she said. "That they didn't notify people that a crime was in the area and we could have been looking for the suspect is also disturbing."
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