Algae helps link suspect to attempted sexual battery near Waterford Lakes, deputies say

Man accused of dragging woman into pond

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Algae from the crime scene was one of the pieces of evidence used to link a suspect to an attempted sexual battery that occurred earlier this year in the Waterford Lakes area, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies said the 23-year-old woman was walking home on Woodbury Road around midnight on May 12 when a man jogged up to her and grabbed her from behind.

“He passes me maybe two feet, he slips around and he starts to choke me,” the victim said. “It’s very sick and very inhumane for what he did to me.”

Deputies said the suspect then dragged the woman into a nearby retention pond, where he put her head underwater.

“He submerged her into the water, held her there, violently choking her,” said Orange County Sheriff’s Office Sex Crimes Detective Alex Richards.

The victim said once he got her into the lake, that’s when he attempted to rape her.

Eventually, the victim said she would do what the man wanted in order to stop the attack and he replied that he wanted her to perform a sex act on him and as he let her go so he could pull his pants down, she ran toward a vehicle that was entering an apartment across the street, records show.

The victim suffered minor injuries to her hands, face and neck and her cellphone was damaged during the incident, according to the affidavit.

Deputies were looking for a man wanted in connection with an attempted sexual battery in the Waterford Lakes area. (Orange County Sheriff's Office)

Deputies said surveillance video from the area showed a work van from an air conditioning company and after contacting that employer and looking at GPS records, they identified Patrick Howard as a suspect. Howard also admitted to being in the area at the time, records show.

He was arrested May 20 on charges of kidnapping with intent to inflict harm or terrorize and attempted sexual battery.

Just recently, deputies said a forensic botanist discovered additional evidence that helped to further cement their case.

According to authorities, samples of the blue-green algae in the retention pond where the victim was attacked were taken and were found to be identical to the algae found on the victim’s work shirt and on Howard’s shoes.

“It’s the same species and the same relative abundances found on the suspect’s clothing and the victim’s clothing and also at the pond,” said Dr. Christopher Hardy.

In addition to that, deputies said Howard is also wanted in connection with sex crimes that occurred in Tennessee.

The victim told News 6 she’s shaken up, but she’s thankful she wasn’t seriously hurt.

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