Throughout the day on Thursday, Police distributed sketches of a suspect in what they are calling an attempted sexual assault on the Rails-to-Trails system.
The suspect is being described as a white male who seemed to be in his late 30s, between 5-foot-9 and 6-feet tall with a thin build. The suspect had gray hair with a short crew cut-style haircut, police said. He was wearing a mostly plain white T-Shirt and dark-colored athletic shorts, police said.
He frequents the trails and could even be considered a regular, police said.
"We're hoping someone recognizes him and calls us," said Lt. John Kelley of the Vernon Police Department. "It is likely someone has seen him on the trails before this incident."
Police are asking that anyone who might recognize the man call them at 860-872-9126. Callers can remain anonymous, Kelley said.
The incident took place at 7:14 p.m. Wednesday on the section of trail between center Road and hartford Turnpike state Route 30, police said. The woman was walking her dogs and he was running, police said.
The man knocked the woman to the ground, but she was able to fight him off.
A search for the man on Wednesday was unsuccessful.
In a conversation with Kelley on Wednesday, the veteran patrol officer now lieutenant tried hard to think of another "sexually motivated" incident on the trail system in recent memory.
He did recall one instance a few years ago when a woman claimed a man was exposing himself. The man claimed he was urinating.
"We have not had many major calls on the trails," Kelley said.
Comments about the trails on the Vernon Patch comment stream were all over the place with some people saying there should be no concern to several woman saying they have seen suspicious characters lurking about.
One woman who said she runs the trails frequently said she knows enforcement is difficult when no crime is committed or loiterers go unreported.
But she said she had become a little more wary of who wagon the trails recently.
"I do remember on Tuesday, I was running on the trails close to Tunnel Road in Vernon and I came across a very creepy man," she said. "I won't forget him because he gave me a very strange look, and was just staring at me."
She continued, "It gave me a very bad vibe. There are plenty of creepy guys on those trails, I guess there just not being reported, unfortunately."
Police said they are aggressively investigating all leads in the case.
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