s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe
You've read 5 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read 10 of 15 free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
You've read all of your free articles this month.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting at 99 cents per month.
Already a subscriber?
We've got a special deal for readers like you.
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Thanks for reading! Why not subscribe?
Get unlimited access to PressDemocrat.com, the eEdition and our mobile app starting 99 cents per month and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?
Want to keep reading? Subscribe today!
Ooops! You're out of free articles. Starting at just 99 cents per month, you can keep reading all of our products and support local journalism.
Already a subscriber?

For Sonoma County Sheriff?s deputies patrolling rural roadways tonight, any suspicious vehicle, any person in the roadway, and especially any woman stopped on the side of the road with a man will be cause for special concern.

The alert comes after a 46-year-old woman reported being a victim of a roadside attack early Saturday morning outside of Sebastopol.

Her story is a familiar one: At least six women have reported being approached, and in some cases hurt or threatened, while driving on rural county roadways since November 18.

?We?re not sure where he is identifying these people. Most likely he is watching people get into their cars, then following them,? said Capt. Matt McCaffrey, spokesman for the Sheriff?s Department. ?They have all been leaving a public place.?

At least eight women in Sonoma County have been accosted in somewhat similar circumstances since November. Six of the encounters, including two assaults, occurred on rural roads. Two of the encounters occurred in the parking lot of a Rohnert Park apartment complex on Camino Colegio when a man targeted pedestrians. The description of the man was similar in all the cases.

Authorities had been reluctant to positively link all the cases. But after Saturday?s attack, officials said the assumption is that one man was involved in all eight incidents.

?We have to work on the assumption that that?s likely,? McCaffrey said. ?We don?t want to rule out that it could be someone else or a copycat, but it would obviously be silly to not be looking at the same individual.?

In the most recent case, the 46-year-old woman was persuaded to pull to the side of Sexton Road outside of Sebastopol by a male driver who attacked her when she got out of the car. She was able to fight him off and get back in her car.

The emerging pattern was clear enough by mid-February that the Sheriff?s Department issued a warning to anyone driving alone on rural roads not to fall victim to false pleas for help, a tactic used in at least three of the cases.

The suspect is described as an adult male with a medium complexion and dark hair, often wearing a knit cap and a sweatshirt or windbreaker.

On Monday, officials warned women again: ?Common sense is that if someone?s behind you, this is not a good time to pull over,? McCaffrey said. ?Personal safety is your responsibility.?

Extra patrols have been added in the Bennett Valley Road area, Calistoga Road and the west county, McCaffrey said.

?We?re going to keep on doing it until we catch him,? McCaffrey said. ?Our worst fear is to have more victims.?

Sebastopol Police this week distributed a sketch of the suspect to all officers. ?If we see a female driver pulled over with a man, that would spark a lot of interest now,? said Police Chief Jeff Weaver. ?We?re going to stop and say ?Hey, is everything OK between the two of you??

Yet patrols are not a guarantee of arresting the perpetrator or deterring another attack, McCaffrey said. ?We could be on the roads 24 hours a day and never bump into this guy; it?s a real hit and miss,? McCaffrey said.

A better solution, he said, is for women to program the Sheriff Department?s dispatch number into their cell phones and not be afraid to call, he said.

That number is 565-2121.

?The best thing that could happen is someone calls and keeps driving and keeps driving. We might be right there,? he said.

Drivers should be aware of what road they are on and be prepared to give accurate descriptions of their location and of the person who is following them, if possible, McCaffrey said.

Aurelia Vogeazopou of Sebastopol is among those who have started following another important piece of advice: lock the car doors while driving.

Since January she has been locked in when driving in the Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley areas where attacks were reported through the winter and where Vogeazopou often visits friends.

Now, she said while shopping in Sebastopol on Monday afternoon, ?I?m going to maintain my locks here, too.?

?I?m praying that we find him,? she said.

Sue Stover of Graton said she was alerted to the Sebastopol-area incident by an e-mail notice from a co-worker. ?Definitely, if I?m in that situation I?m going to keep going,? Stover said.

She said women at her workplace were taking the threat seriously, taking extra precautions and sending e-mail alerts to friends and family.

?We?re just trying to tell everybody. Trying to be aware,? she said.