Santa Barbara sheriff searches for man who punched jogger in the face, grabbed woman

Detectives are investigating two recent assaults on women in western Goleta that they believe are related, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.

At about 12:45 p.m. Saturday, a 22-year-old woman was jogging on a dirt path along a creek near Phelps Road and Ocean Walk Lane when a man assaulted her, said Lt. Erik Raney.

“The man grabbed her by the arm and shoulder and attempted to pull her closer to him,” Raney said. “The victim, carrying her house keys in her hand, punched at the man in attempt to break free.”

The man punched the woman in the face before letting her go.

The woman, who sustained only minor injuries, then ran to a nearby house where she called 9-1-1.

The assailant was described as a white male, 40 to 50 years old, average height and weight, with a dirty brown-white beard. He was wearing a black shirt and smelled heavily of alcohol.

At about 10:30 p.m. on Monday, an 18-year-old woman was sitting near her vehicle in the Haskell’s Beach parking lot, waiting for friends, when she noticed a man sitting in a dark-colored vehicle nearby, Raney said.

The man then approach the woman, asking if she was OK, and placing his hand on her back, Raney said.

“The man then reached under the front of her shirt and sexually assaulted her,” Raney said. “The 18-year-old victim then kicked at the suspect, striking him in the groin area.”

The assailant fled to his vehicle and drove away while the victim ran towards her friends to call for help.

The suspect in that assault was described as a white male, 50 to 60 years old, average height and weight, darker hair that went over his ears and forehead, and a white beard. He was wearing blue jeans and a dark gray hoodie sweatshirt, and smelled of marijuana and dirt.

The suspect’s vehicle was described as an older model, four-door compact, possibly dark gray in color, similar to a Chevy Volt.

“Due to the similar suspect descriptions, relatively similar location (isolated areas near rural access), and proximity of the attacks, the Sheriff’s Office believes these assaults have been perpetrated by the same suspect,” Raney said.

The Sheriff’s Office is asking for the public’s help in identifying the assailant. Anyone who sees someone matching the suspect’s description in these areas is asked to call 9-1-1.

The Sheriff’s Office is reminding the public of several tips to staying safe while enjoying local parks and open spaces:

  • Share your itinerary: Let family or friends know where you are going, and when you expect to return.
  • Exercise in the daylight: When possible, enjoy the outdoors during daylight hours.
  • Carry a cellphone: Keep your cellphone accessible and fully charged so you can call for help if you sense trouble.
  • Safety in numbers: There is safety in numbers, avoid being in isolated places alone.
  • Limit the music: Cell phone music apps and portable music devices can create a distraction and limit your senses to danger.
  • Take a self defense class: Understand your own abilities to defend yourself, and build your confidence.
  • Stay alert: One of the most important elements of your personal safety is your awareness of your surroundings. Stay alert to unusual places, persons and situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Your eyes, ears and intuition can be some of your greatest sources of self-protection.
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