13-year-old escapes attacker on wooded path, but he’s still out there, Calif. cops say

A 13-year-old girl was walking on a dirt trail through the woods in Santa Cruz County after school on Monday when a man tried to grab her, according to authorities.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office called the daylight attack “disturbing” in a Facebook post on Wednesday and said that “we want our community to be on alert.”

The girl had been walking to her mother’s workplace on a secluded path along Highway 9 near Felton in the afternoon when the man came up to her and tried to strike up a conversation — and then grabbed her arm and the strap of her backpack, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

“Fortunately, she was able to fight him off and run,” deputies said, adding that the incident was reported as “a battery of a minor.”

The man “was seen running toward nearby San Lorenzo Valley Middle School,” deputies said.

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The middle school released a statement to parents informing them of the reported incident, saying that “we would like to remind all families of the importance of talking to your children about safety for both before and after school, and when walking to or from school, to walk in pairs or groups,” KSBW reported.

Deputies shared a sketch of the suspect on Facebook, describing him as “a ‘transient-looking’ white man in his late 20s with dirty, light brown hair almost in dreadlocks.”

Deputies released this sketch of a man suspected of trying to grab a 13-year-old middle school girl near Felton, California, on Monday. Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office

The man was skinny and around 6-feet-4-inches tall, with “short, scruffy facial hair” and hands that were “dirty with long dirty fingernails,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

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“We are grateful the young victim got away unharmed, but we are asking everyone to keep an eye out for anything suspicious,” deputies said. “Patrol deputies are providing increased security around the school.”

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.