12-year-old wakes up to find man trying to molest her; neighborhood on alert -- 'It's pretty scary'

In the alleys between rows of battered duplexes in Santa Rosa's South Park neighborhood Tuesday morning, children's bikes lay discarded in rough grass while their young riders peered out curtained windows.

From toddlers to teens, children were being kept indoors by parents who said they were nervous about their children's safety following an early morning break-in and attack by a man on a 12-year-old girl.

The girl, a soon-to-be eighth-grader at Slater Middle School, awoke to the man touching her in her Aston Avenue bedroom. Her screams alerted family members to the attack, and the intruder fled, crawling back out the bedroom window he had entered after cutting through a screen.

"The duplex this child was in wasn't facing the street and was somewhat hidden from street view. There was nobody to see him doing it. The person may have had advance knowledge of the victim living there," Police Sgt. Lisa Banayat said.

The window the man entered through was unlocked and open while the girl slept, offering a cool breeze on an overcast night. But the screen was little deterrent; it was taken as evidence after the 1:30 a.m. attack.

Detectives were meeting with neighbors in the area who said they'd seen a man apparently looking in windows during the night.

"Apparently somebody saw a suspicious guy several hours before the crime," Banayat said. Nothing was reported about him until later Tuesday morning. But the man fit a description similar to that of the suspect in the attempted molestation, she said.

He was described as a dark-skinned, heavyset man, about 40 years old and 5-foot-5. He wore dark-colored clothing.

Detectives were trying to determine if there was enough information to produce a sketch of the man.

Police also were checking on the status of registered sex offenders in the area and contacting state parole officers for people of similar descriptions -- all standard procedures in such cases.

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