UPDATE 6/16/14 @ 6:40 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The sun was still out Saturday evening when Fayette County Sheriff’s deputies say a 48-year-old woman was jogging on an exercise path, just before she was attacked from behind by a man wearing a mask and gloves.
The victim told police he pulled her into the woods, tied her up, gagged her and then raped her.
When he left, he threatened to come back, rape her again and then kill her, according to investigators. Fortunately, she was able to free herself and run for help.
Police then found Thomas Carter, 47, hiding under a porch. He matches the description of the suspect and is now in jail charged with kidnapping, first-degree sexual assault and first-degree robbery.
Fayette County Sheriff Steve Kessler said they’re still investigating whether Carter targeted this woman and how long he’d been watching her.
A woman attacked in broad daylight while running on a trail alone is rare, but this incident shows it can happen.
So WSAZ hit the trails with an avid runner and law enforcement to come up with ways to help you stay safe.
“I love to be in the woods. I love to run trails,” avid runner Susan Hall said.
It often occurs to Hall that someone could be lurking in the shadows, but since hearing about the brutal rape along the Rails-to-Trails exercise path in Oak Hill, she's now being extra cautious.
“It's heartbreaking that it happened to this lady,” Hall said. “It does make you want to step up your security and sort of look over my shoulder and make sure no one's following me.”
Law enforcement suggests strength in numbers, but if you run as often as Hall, you're bound to venture out alone from time to time.
“Stay aware of your surroundings. Be looking around; don't just run blindly following just the trail in front of you,” Cpl. Brian Humphreys with the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Office said.
Humphreys also says if you're out running trails alone, always keep your cell phone with you. If you have headphones in keep the volume down, otherwise it's best to just leave them in the car.
Also, don't forget you can always bring along a four-legged sidekick.
“When it's not too hot, I have a 70-pound Australian Sheppard, so I take him with me,” Hall said.
Officers also say there’s nothing wrong with carrying weapons with you when you run, as long as you have the proper license and you’re comfortable using them.
Thomas Gene Carter, 47, of Oak Hill has been charged with kidnapping, first degree sexual assault and first degree robbery.
The victim, a 48-year-old woman, told police she was jogging on the Rails-to-Trails path in Oak Hill when a man attacked her from behind. She says the man was wearing a mask and gloves when he dragged her into a wooded area off of the trail, tied her up, gagged her and then used a knife to cut off her clothing.
Carter is accused of sexually assaulting the woman. When he left, she was still tied up, and he allegedly told her that he'd be back to sexually assault her again and then kill her.
After he was gone, the woman was able to free herself from the restraints and run to a house on Allman Street for help.
Shortly after hearing his description, police found Carter hiding under a porch.
"This was a brutal attack during daylight hours," said Sheriff Kessler. "The suspect was allegedly armed with a knife and allegedly threatened to kill the victim during this prolonged assault. The victim is extremely fortunate that she was able to break free and seek help, or we would probably be investigating a murder."
"This is an extremely unusual event to occur on our Rails-To-Trails exercise path," Oak Hill Police Chief Mike Whisman said. "The Oak Hill Police Department regularly patrols this exercise path, both on foot and by bicycle patrol. Unfortunately we can't be everywhere at once."
It happened about 6:00 p.m., Saturday on the Rails-to-Trails exercise path.
The Fayette County Sheriff's Office and Oak Hill Police responded to a 911 call that a 48-year-old woman had been abducted and sexually assaulted on the path in the Allman Street area.
The victim was taken to the hospital for treatment, while officers search the area for evidence.
According to a news release, the suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5'10" to 6' and weighing approximately 150-170 pounds. He has shoulder-length black-and-gray hair, and a full bushy black and gray beard. He is reportedly right-handed, smokes cigarettes, has dark eyes and tattoos done in blue ink on both arms. He was last seen wearing blue jeans, a flannel shirt, brown leather work boots, a brown leather belt and gloves. He is reportedly armed with a folding knife. Evidence collected at the scene indicates that the suspect works or may once have worked in the HVAC industry.
Anyone with any information concerning this incident is asked to contact the Fayette County 911 Center at (304) 574-3590 or Crime Stoppers at (304) 255-7867. You may also submit a tip through the Sheriff's Office Facebook Page, "Fayette County Sheriff's Department."
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