JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — As the search continues for a sexual predator who has targeted lone women in Jefferson County parks, the sheriff's office shared limited new information on the case this week.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO) reported on the at-large suspect on July 26. At the time, JCSO said the suspect was targeting solo female hikers in the Evergreen and Conifer area. The office had received multiple reports of a man confronting women at Flying J Ranch Park and Alderfer/Three Sisters Park.
A few women described the encounters to the sheriff's office. One said on April 3, the naked suspect approached her and grabbed her buttocks before fleeing the area. Another woman said on June 13, the naked suspect confronted her and masturbated in front of her. His actions became more aggressive and on July 18, he contacted three women, fondled two of them, masturbated in front of them and engaged in a sexual conversation, JCSO said. The last confirmed report from JCSO was on July 24, when the suspect confronted a woman and began masturbating in front of her, then tried to rip off her clothing.
In each instance, he fled into the woods.
Multiple people have reached out to Denver7 since late July asking for a Follow Up on this case. While very limited new information is below, Denver7 gathered everything we know here.
We reached out to the JCSO on Monday requesting an update and was told: "We do not have any new information. But our investigators are working all possible leads. So we are still advising people to call us and let us know if they spot him." We reached out again Friday morning to ask if JCSO had a plan for the weekend regarding this case — as the weather will be ideal for hiking in the local parks — but did not hear about this.
However, the JCSO said Friday, "We’ve had no new cases, no new unreported cases, and no updates on suspect information or description. We are doing our job to work these cases, without giving specific operational details. Sometimes no news is good news, but we can’t keep repeating ourselves with nothing new to report."
The sheriff's office confirmed in a Facebook comment on Monday that it investigated a suspicious incident at Maxwell Falls, but it was not a report of unwanted sexual behavior and deputies do not believe it was connected to the sexual predator. On Thursday morning, the sheriff's office was asked in a Facebook comment about a possible incident at Elk Meadow Park, under Bergen Peak. In response, the sheriff's office wrote: "We have not made any arrests yet for our case. Our investigators are working hard to try to ID and find our suspect. We will most certainly post an update once we have one." On Friday evening, JCSO confirmed they did not have any reports of this suspect at Elk Meadow Park.
On July 26, JCSO said signs were posted at the Flying J Ranch trailheads warning visitors about the suspect, but it's not clear if similar signs were installed at Three Sisters or other nearby Jeffco parks. Jeffco Open Space confirmed on Friday that the Flying J signs are still up, but deferred other questions to JCSO.
The JCSO has described the suspect as a white man between the ages of 20 and 30 with an athletic build. He has dark hair and was sometimes carrying a dark backpack. No photos or sketches of him are available.
Residents around the parks and visitors are continuing to ask for updates on this case — the July 26 Facebook post from JCSO has nearly 800 comments. As recent as Friday afternoon, people posted questions like, "Any updates on finding this person or additional attacks?" "Wondering what kind of priority this is being given by Jefferson County Sheriff's Office?" and "Are there any updates on this creep?"
One of the people eager for answers is Stefanie Flippin, a professional runner who moved to the Evergreen area about five years ago with her husband. She lives close to Three Sisters, where she often trains.
"My initial thoughts are I was just extremely angered by it, especially when I dug a little bit further and realized that this has been happening since April with seven attacks that have been called in," she said. "I'm totally unsure why the public was not notified sooner."
Two of her close friends and an athlete she trains have been sexually assaulted at knifepoint or gunpoint previously — not by this Jeffco suspect — so hearing about a sexual predator in the local parks was not only disturbing, but personal.
"I personally don't want to become another statistic. And I don't want any other women in my community to become another statistic either," Flippin said. "Ever since I've been notified on July 26, I haven't been able to run in there (at Three Sisters) — at least not by myself."
She takes her own precautions, like carrying mace and a Garmin InReach so her husband can track her. She said her training partner runs with a Taser.
"I've always felt confident that I can outrun pretty much anyone on these trails if I had to," Flippin continued. "And the fact that this sexual predator has been described as young athletic — he's demonstrated that he knows the trails, he can run off of the trails and escape. That's frightening to me."
She hasn't seen many solo women on the trails around Three Sisters recently. The county had warned women not to head out alone on the area's trails.
But she said she's not satisfied with the county's approach to the issue.
"There hasn't been any updates whatsoever, and warning women to either don't go out by yourself or to stay home, to me, is not good enough," she said. "And that's not a solution to this... It's not even an option to run without mace, or a pocket knife or a Taser or something to protect yourself, especially if you're alone... I would feel a lot safer if I saw a sheriff here at the park, at all the major trailheads."
Flippin said she has been telling her athletes and other women in the community to stick together, stay alert and if you have a gut feeling something is not right, turn around.
"I don't know when I'll ever really feel safe here unless he's caught or there are more measures being put in," she said. "I just don't think it's safe for us to wait until something more tragic happens and I'm not willing to sit by and be silent about it."
Courtney Monroe Culligan also lives in Evergreen — she's been there about 20 years — and frequents Jeffco Open Space Parks several times a week, especially Three Sisters. As a coach and athlete training for the Ironman World Championships in Kona, her training demands long days on the bike and running. The trails are an outlet for her and a place where she finds peace and can spend time with her family.
She was shocked to find out about the sexual predator via Facebook in July, several months after the first incident was reported in April. She had been using those trails consistently in those months, she said.
"Shocked is probably an understatement," she said. "You hear about something like this in a small but growing community like Evergreen, where you've lived for 20 years — I've never been concerned for my safety on the trails, with the exception of perhaps been worried about running into some wildlife or something," Culligan said. "So, it definitely took me by surprise to hear the news. Dismayed, upset, shocked all of that. I think that almost all the people within our community have felt the same."
She was upset because she knew other women had also been running and hiking on the trails alone without realizing there was this sort of danger.
"I just think it's so important to always be aware of your surroundings and to be proactive in your own personal safety when training alone, but the community definitely should have been notified at the first incidents of sexual assault in the area so that we could have all remained informed and made the safest decisions for ourselves," she said.
It goes beyond just people who use the trails, she explained. Both Evergreen High School and Conifer High Schools are near the parks.
In the couple weeks since the announcement about the suspect, she has avoided the trails and modified her training plan so she is either with other people or exercising indoors. But she recognizes it's not always possible to have a buddy to join in on a workout. For now though, she said it's important to pull out all the stops and stay as safe as possible.
"I definitely want to stress the need, for the time being, going out in pairs or groups and just carrying mace with you, if that's something that you're comfortable with and know how to use," she said. "I would definitely just prepare yourself if that's a choice you're making until the suspect is caught because it's scary, and I don't want anything to escalate. And I don't want anyone to get hurt more so than they already have been."
She said she hopes to learn more from the JCSO soon.
"There is a lot of confused information, perhaps misinformation, out there," she continued. "So I think if we could get this all clarified, in terms of what has specifically happened, it would be reassuring for the community to know. But I think the bottom line is that there's still someone out there."
Everybody has a right to enjoy time outdoors whether they are in a group or alone. Solo hikers are encouraged to bring bear spray or pepper spray (keep it easily accessible and know how to use it) and stay aware of their surroundings by not wearing headphones on trails. You can also let somebody know where you are and share your GPS location with a loved one. If you're attacked, experts recommend aiming for "soft targets," like the eyes, throat and groin. Trust your intuition if a situation feels off.
Anybody who encounters this suspect should call 911 as soon as possible. A tip line was also set up for anybody who sees him — that number is 303-271-5612.
All Jeffco Open Space parks open one hour before sunrise and close one hour after sunset.