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Mother, daughter adjust lives after punch

About a week after an unknown assailant punched her teenage daughter in the face, Wendy Hinsdale again walked the tree-lined streets of downtown San Luis Obispo when the fear hit.

“I see this guy coming down the sidewalk with a shaved head and I just panicked,” she said from her quiet, sunshine-filled home Friday.

She immediately crossed Higuera Street.

“There wasn’t even a crosswalk. I just wanted to see if I could see him, but then I got down there and I thought,” she said, “ugh, this is too creepy.”

Ever since the attack — an undercut punch that split her daughter’s gums, knocked her head-first into the tire of a parked car and broke her jaw in two places — Hinsdale has replayed it in her mind.

Thinking about the man’s wild, dark-set, darting eyes. Analyzing what she could have done differently.

Just before 1 p.m. on Oct. 3, Hinsdale and her 15-year-old daughter were walking along Higuera Street.

A man approached them and the mother of two shifted her purse to the left as she got an uneasy feeling, she said.

Seconds later he punched the teen with a closed fist, according to the San Luis Obispo Police Department.

The sidewalk was full of people, but no one went after him, she said. Hinsdale would have, she added, but she didn’t want to leave her daughter screaming and bleeding on the ground.

One witness who had seen the man before at a local cafe, and again at the attack, came forward. He contributed to the police sketch.

As of Friday, police didn’t have any suspects, Sgt. Janice Goodwin said, but the case is a priority. Detectives have been following up on potential leads, she added.

“(Someone saw him) walking down the street punching his fists in the air saying, ‘I hit a little girl,’ ” Hinsdale said, shaking her head. “Mostly I just want him found so he doesn’t harm anyone else. Who knows what he’s capable of if he could hit a little girl?”

Since then, Hinsdale has looked at dozens of photos of potential suspects, but none match the man she remembers. Her daughter doesn’t recall anything. “Just his fist coming toward her face,” Hinsdale said.

The family lives in San Luis Obispo County, but The Tribune agreed not to disclose their hometown because of Hinsdale’s worries the man might read about them.

Police won’t disclose the girl’s identity in order to protect the family. Hinsdale also would not give her daughter’s name.

Her daughter returned to her high school Oct. 12 to a wave of support from friends and teachers, but her jaw is wired shut for a month.

She has about two more weeks of taking in food through a straw, and carrying around wire cutters in case she chokes. Her stomach hurts.

She’s meeting with a nutritionist on how to consume more protein.

Hinsdale, a San Luis Obispo County resident since age 5, said she no longer feels safe on downtown San Luis Obispo streets.

But her daughter remains upbeat. They were downtown a few days ago and “she looked at me and said, ‘Mom, you can’t live your life in fear,’ ” Hinsdale recalled. “But it’s just so hard to forget.”

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