WATCH: Stony Plain residents are staying vigilant after news of two separate attacks on women. In both incidents, the young women were forced to the ground by a male suspect. Julia Wong reports.
EDMONTON – RCMP are searching for suspects after two women said they were attacked, in two separate incidents, west of Edmonton.
On March 28, a 19-year-old woman was attacked while walking down a path in Stony Plain at around 12:15 a.m., police said.
The woman was walking in the trail system near 49 Avenue and Brown Street when a man came up behind her and threw her to the ground, according to RCMP. The woman fought off the man while he was on top of her, and she ran to safety.
RCMP said the suspect is described as stocky, 5’10”, with a strong odour of alcohol.
On Friday, Stony Plain RCMP received a complaint from a second woman who said she was attacked on March 13 at around 5:30 a.m. while jogging near South Park Drive and 44 Avenue.
After the 19-year-old woman passed a man, he began to follow her. When he caught up to her, he forced the woman to the ground and then sexually assaulted her, police said.
The man in the March 13 incident is described 6’0″, heavy set, a dark tattoo on his right wrist that may have been a sleeve tattoo, with a strong odour of alcohol.
Staff Sgt. Mike Lokken of Stony Plain RCMP said it is premature to determine whether police are searching for the same suspect but notes there are similarities between the incidents.
“It’s traveling outside. You’re accosted by a male. The description of the male is similar. It’s about two weeks apart but on the other hand there are a lot of similarities and we are looking at that,” he said.
Lokken said it is premature to say whether the suspect is targeting young women. He also said that, in both cases, the suspect was not hidden from the women.
“The male was visible from some distance and a confrontation resulted,” he said.
Rhonda Buck, a frequent trail user, said news of the attacks is surprising.
“I hope it’s just an anomaly here and that they catch whoever it is,” she said.
Buck said she normally doesn’t use the trail system late at night but she still plans to be more vigilant when out.
“I’ll probably pay more attention to people coming up behind me,” she said.
Barb Potter lives around the trail system and uses it about five times a week to bike, run or walk her dog.
She went on a run around 9:30 p.m. on Friday and said news of the attacks shatters her sense of safety and security.
“I thoroughly love the trail system and it breaks my heart to think there is a risk of me going out when it is dark or being on the trail system,” she said.
Leeana Costa and her partner Jamie Funk moved to Stony Plain about three years ago for a more peaceful life.
The pair said they hadn’t been concerned about using the trail system late at night but are now re-evaluating that.
“It’s a real shock to hear. It’s pretty scary. It definitely puts a damper on wanting to walk out at night,” Costa said.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any more late night walks alone,” Funk said, gesturing to Costa. “If she needs to be going anywhere, I’ll be tagging along with her for sure. I don’t think I’ll be letting her out of my sights after hearing that.”
Lokken is advising people to travel in groups, to travel in well-lit areas and to be aware of their surroundings.
Police are looking for help from the public. Anyone with information is asked to contact Stony Plain RCMP or Crime Stoppers.