Police in Ocala are asking for the public's help in identifying the man they believe is involved in as many as four sexual battery cases.
On Sept. 19, a 40-year-old woman said she was approached by a man driving a black Dodge Dakota pickup truck in the Downtown Square area of Ocala. The man asked her if she needed a ride and she said she did.
The woman said the man, armed with a knife, drove her to a secluded wooded area and sexually assaulted her. She said he choked her until she passed out. The man then took her clothing and left.
The victim described the man as 35 to 45 years old, white, 5 feet 11 to 6 feet 3 inches tall, heavy set with strawberry blonde hair in a military-style buzz cut. She said he had a mustache, tattoos on his neck and arms, one possibly being a rebel flag with an eagle. She said he had baby items in his truck.
On Wednesday, officers said a different woman, 42, reported being forced into a blue or green minivan by a man. She said he drove her into a wooded area near the 1100 block of Northwest 38th Avenue.
She said the man physically assaulted her before taking her into the back of the van, where he choked her and then sexually assaulted her.
"You wouldn't want to be in that situation and I hope they catch him. It hurts to see somebody like that," said Sherry Rodriquez, who said the woman ran from the woods toward her car, naked and covered in blood. "She was tied up all night. She was just exhausted."
Rodriguez said the woman was naked, obviously battered and covered in her attacker's blood. She said the woman asked to call her daughter while she sat in her back seat as she took the woman to a nearby convenience store for help.
Rodriguez said the woman described being held captive in the van all night until 6 o'clock the following evening when she made a daring escape.
"She said she pretended she was sleeping and she found a box cutter. When she found the box cutter, she started stabbing him," Rodriguez said. "They need to catch him. hang him."
The latest victim described the attacker as a white male in his 30s, about 5 feet 10 with a stocky build, short hair and tattoos on his neck and arms. He was wearing a white T-shirt, black pants and reading glasses. She also said there were children's toys in the car, as well as metal crates containing tools and plastic bags.
Two of the victims were taken to a secluded, wooded area off Interstate 75 where they were raped. Police said they have extra patrols in the area, but women who live nearby are considering drastic measures to stay safe.
"We're not going outside by ourselves. My daugher's not playing outside and we're going to move," said one woman who asked to remain unidentified. "We don't feel safe at all. It could have been anybody."
A third case in July may also be linked to the same man.
"It's scary. It's bad when you can't go out without being afraid. (It's) not like when we were kids. It is sad," said Louise Ray, who lives in Ocala.
Ocala police are conducting extra patrols and have 30 employees looking into the case. While they investigate, many Ocala women are protecting themselves by walking in groups and staying in well-lit areas.
Anyone with information about the man is asked to call the Ocala Police Department at 352-369-7000 or Crime Stoppers at 352-368-STOP.