Florence Attacker Strikes During Night, Targets Young Woman

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FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) - Florence Police are investigating a home invasion and sexual assault.  This is the fourth intrusion and attack on young women this year.   Detectives say the attack escalated this time and investigators are intensifying the search for the suspect.

Florence Police say an 18-year-old girl went to sleep in her Summit Ridge apartment on Helton Drive only to be awakened with a man standing over her.  Investigators say the man covered the girl's mouth and told her not to scream.

“It’s very traumatic to these females and they are going to be affected for the rest of their lives,” said Sergeant Cliff Billingsley with the Florence Police Department.   

Within the last few months, police responded to the Heathrow Apartments and two homes near the UNA campus for these same type of calls.

“Definitely the same method as the last case, it's very, very similar,” said Billingsley.

However this time, police say the suspect sexually gratified himself before running away.

The lead investigator in this case now believes all four home invasion cases are connected.  In order to catch whoever is going into these women’s homes, the Florence Police Department has offered its own $1,000 reward on top of any Shoals Area Crime Stoppers rewards that may be offered.  

“It`s very frustrating, I know that we're doing the best we can on the case and unfortunately in a lot of these cases we don`t have a lot to go on,” said Billingsley.

Detectives warn women to take extra safety measures to keep the suspect from getting inside their apartment.

If you have any information about this case you are asked to call the Florence Police Department or the Shoals Area Crime Stoppers Tip Line at (256) 386-8685.