Portland police seek witnesses to Back Cove sexual assault

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PORTLAND — Chief Michael Sauschuck on Thursday said the Police Department wants to hear from witnesses to an alleged sexual assault that occurred Wednesday afternoon along Back Cove Trail.

“We are on this with all the staff we have available,” Sauschuck said of report by a 34-year-old woman that she was attacked at around 12:15 p.m. Wednesday near the half-mile marker of the trail adjacent to Interstate 295.

Sauschuck said the suspect allegedly “dragged the woman into the high grass area” and sexually assaulted her before two passersby intervened.

“The victim then ran to her vehicle in the parking lot and went to a hospital where the police were called,” Sauschuck said.

The suspect in the attack is described as a white male in his 20s or 30s, about 6 feet 1 inch to 6 feet 3 inches tall, with a goatee and dark hair. His attire of bright orange shorts and a dark tank top shirt should also have made him distinctive, Sauschuck said.

With the trail area in wide use at that hour, Sauschuck said it is likely the suspect would have been seen, especially as he fled the scene on foot. The victim was unable to provide much detail about the two people who came to her aid, and they have not contacted police, he said.

Before the late-morning press conference outside police headquarters at 109 Middle St., Sauschuck said he walked through the area around Back Cove where detectives were still searching Thursday morning.

The alleged sexual assault was the third at Back Cove that Sauschuck said he could remember in his 18 years in the Police Department. He added he was not aware of any general safety complaints pending about the park and trail.

Sauschuck said the park and fields are well maintained and offer good visibility, but knew this was of little comfort to the victim.

“I could tell you crime is down 14 percent, but that does not matter to the victim,” he said.

Police are stepping up patrols of the area, Sauschuck said, and urging trail and park users to carry cell phones, to use the area in groups, and to be vocal and draw attention if confronted by anyone.

Sauschuck also invited women to sign up for the Rape Aggression Defense System classes offered by police through the Amy St. Laurent Foundation. The five-session classes will be offered in September and October. More information can be found at the city website.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call police at 874-8575. Tips can also be submitted online or texted anonymously to 274637, using the keyword “GOTCHA.”

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Sidebar Elements

Portland police search the banks of Back Cove Thursday, Aug. 13, for evidence and clues stemming from an alleged sexual assault that occurred Wednesday afternoon.

Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said Thursday his department is especially interested in hearing from two people who may have witnessed and stopped an alleged sexual assault just off the Back Cove Trail.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.