The following news piece was written by Lili Martinez of The Kenyon Collegian.
Update: The Knox County Sheriff’s Office and the Office of Campus Safety have each released statements on the arrest. They can be found here.
For almost a month, Safety and the Knox County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) have been on the lookout for a man who reportedly exposed himself to runners and bikers on the Kokosing Gap Trail, somewhere between the BFEC and Mount Vernon. But today, solo runners and cell-phone-less athletes can rest easy knowing a suspect has been apprehended.
At around 2:40 p.m. this afternoon, Sarah Hobbs ’15 was running on the Gap Trail, about three-quarters of a mile out from the KAC, headed towards Mount Vernon, when she saw a man dressed in baggy jeans and a T-shirt, riding a small bike and swerving strangely. When the man turned and saw Hobbs, “he immediately took off on his bike, and then I saw him turn into the woods,” Hobbs said. She continued running until she reached the mile marker, just past Laymon Road and the entrance to the BFEC. The rest of the story, in her words:
“I got to the mile marker exactly a mile from the KAC and I heard a man’s voice say “hey!” from the woods. I turn to my right and he’s standing about 20 feet away from me in the woods masturbating, and with his phone out it looks like he’s taking pictures of me. So I yelled at him. I said ‘Hey! You’re a sicko!’ and then he disappeared in the woods, and I was like, ‘I’m going to report you! What’s your deal?'”
The man then disappeared into the woods.
Hobbs immediately turned around and ran back to the KAC, where she reported what she had seen to Suzanne Helfant, her basketball coach, and Justin Newell, assistant director of athletics and director of the KAC.
“At this point it had probably been only 10 minutes since I saw him, so as soon as I told Justin that I saw the guy, before he did anything, he called Campus Safety,” Hobbs explained. “He had like a walkie-talkie, so he said ‘Home base to blah blah blah,’ some code that meant the guy had been seen and sent the police immediately to the Gap Trail and I told them he took off towards Mount Vernon.”
Hobbs had to fill out several witness reports and identify the suspect, who was apprehended on the Gap Trail. Campus Safety and the KCSO cooperated to find the suspect. Around 4:30, Hobbs drove to the parking lot near the entrance to the BFEC with a Sheriff’s deputy and was asked to identify the man from the car.
“I had to just look at him. He had changed his clothes and he was standing and talking to the detective, not handcuffed or anything, and I recognized his face and his body type and everything and I was like, ‘Yup, thats the guy,’ ID’d him, told that to other people, did another witness report thing, and then they detained him.”
As the investigation is ongoing, Campus Safety has declined to comment, and attempts to reach the Sheriff’s office have not yet been successful. Newell gave a brief statement, saying in an email that “a female student-athlete was running today and returned to my office to report a similar incident as those previously described on the gap trail.”
Hobbs’ speed in reporting the sighting probably helped the KCSO catch the suspect.
“Justin told me I was the first person to run as fast as I could and tell someone,” she said. “Most people didn’t know what to do or didn’t come back right away so they didn’t have a chance to actually catch him.”
“I’m really glad they caught him; it’s the best thing,” she said. “The Gap Trail is safe!”