The report of a rape in Red Rock Canyon Open Space by a 19-year-old female hiker has ignited safety concerns from people who use or live near the park, especially women.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office, which is investigating the May 24 attack, didn't alert the public, saying there are still "gaps" in its understanding of what occurred.
While a detective assigned to the case met with the victim briefly, the detective had been unable to contact her for a more formal interview "to go through things more thoroughly," sheriff's spokesman Lt. Jeff Kramer said. The detective, a woman, made repeated attempts to contact the victim, Kramer said.
"Until we can make sure we have a clear understanding, we don't want to create some kind of panic amongst the community as far as some problems in Red Rocks until we can fill in some of those gaps," Kramer said.
"If we don't have a complete understanding of what's gone on or we lack some clarity, we don't want to step out and give wrong information either. That would be probably equally damaging or worse. That's why we're treading lightly right now."
Kramer said the follow-up interview with the victim is scheduled Wednesday.
Debbie Klompenhouwer, who uses the park regularly, said she understood that the sheriff's office wanted to get the story straight but that it was still a public safety issue.
"It is very concerning to the community, especially for those of us who use the trails on a regular basis, and when we hear something like this through the grapevine more or less, it's very concerning because it's something that needs to be put out right away so the community knows," she said.
The woman told detectives she walked along one of the designated trails for about 20 to 30 minutes and then hiked off the trail for another 20 to 30 minutes when she was sexually assaulted by a stranger. The woman said the attack happened about 9 a.m. May 24, a Friday, and she reported it "later in the day," Kramer said.
"This is an active case for us. It's being looked into by one of our detectives," he said.
Despite the lack of publicity, news of the attack spread late last week after an email written by someone who identified herself as the victim's aunt was forwarded repeatedly and posted on Facebook.
"As my sister was out of town, I was there with her through the whole reporting process which was one of the most horrific experience (sic) I have ever been through," the person wrote in the email. "She has shown such strength and I am so proud of her. She does not want anyone else to have to go through this."
Klompenhouwer said she heard about the attack Saturday from a female client who had received the email.
"I also heard about it from a neighbor this morning at 6:15 when I was out, and today when I was back at work, heard about it again. Women talk," she said.
In the email, the assailant was described as a young man, about 5-feet 10-inches tall, with longish wavy brown hair and acne scars on both cheeks. He was wearing a Carhartt hooded sweatshirt and black work pants and smelled "very strongly" of alcohol.
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