A $10,000 reward was announced Wednesday afternoon for information leading Montgomery County investigators to identify and arrest the man who sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman at gunpoint Tuesday morning at a popular Norristown park.
The reward was offered as runners and walkers, some of them wary and cautious, returned to Norristown Farm Park. The nearly 700-acre park in East Norriton and West Norriton Townships had closed Tuesday after the assault, which authorities say occurred around 10:50 a.m. Tuesday while the woman was jogging.
The woman called 911, and police from both townships, as well as Montgomery County detectives, responded. She was taken to Einstein Medical Center for treatment and was released later that day, said Kate Delano, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office.
Before Tuesday, there had been no reported sexual assaults at gunpoint in Montgomery County since at least 2014, Delano said. It was not immediately clear when exactly the last sexual assault of this nature occurred in the area, but Delano said that such random attacks were "extremely rare."
Norristown Farm Park is so large, Delano said, that it falls under the jurisdictions of West Norriton police, East Norriton police, and Pennsylvania State Police, which makes gathering statistics on other types of incidents there difficult.
The park was quiet around midmorning Wednesday. A few people walked dogs, biked, or listened to music on headphones as they jogged the trail, part of which surrounds a dense cornfield.
People said that they were shocked to hear of the broad-daylight attack at the park.
"It is horrible," said Dean Shaw, 58, of Norristown, who wore a faded Eagles hat to shield his eyes from the morning sun.
Shaw said he normally would have been walking at the park at the time when the assault occurred, but he didn't make it out on Tuesday.
Aveda Christopher, 22, of Norristown, said she had been walking the trail from 8 to 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, about an hour before the attack.
Christopher and her boyfriend only began exercising there Monday as part of a late-summer effort to get in shape.
When she heard of the attack on the news, Christopher said, she was shocked because the park is usually bustling all morning. She had already gotten familiar with the park regulars, who wave to passersby as they run or walk. That sense of community makes her feel safe, Christopher said.
"It's empty today," Christina Letrinko, 31, said to her father as she unloaded her 6-month-old daughter from a van and into a stroller.
Letrinko, of West Norriton, walks often at the park — sometimes with her baby, sometimes with her two dogs, and sometimes with her father, John Paolucci, 58, of East Norriton.
As a new mother, Letrinko said, she gets nervous when she walks alone with baby Harper. But at Norristown Farm Park, she said, there was only one time she felt unsafe.
Paolucci recalled the recent night. Letrinko called him after a man approached her on the trail, asking questions about where the baby's father was, Paolucci said.
"Dad, there's a guy behind me," Paolucci recalled his daughter telling him. "Dad, just stay on the phone."
On Wednesday morning, Letrinko and Paolucci set out together on the winding, tree-lined path with the infant and Paolucci's large yellow dog in tow.
After the assault Tuesday, "my husband doesn't want me to come by myself anymore," Letrinko said. "But what are the chances that happens again?"
Others said Wednesday that they, too, refused to live in fear after one violent incident, but would walk or run with an increased awareness of their surroundings.
"It could happen anywhere," Christopher said. "It was out of nowhere."