Detective explains why it took 15 months to arrest sexual assault suspect

Detective explains why it took 15 months to arrest sexual assault suspect (WPEC)

Sexually assaulted while on her morning run.

Now 15 months later, police tell CBS12 News they’ve arrested her attacker.

The lead detective said this whole time he knew exactly who sexually attacked the woman along the Intracosatal near the 2700 block of South Flagler Drive.

He said what took time was developing a strong case against the suspect.

“My hope was that they would get the guy and he’d go to jail,” victim Diane Merkle said.

Merkle loves jogging along the Intracoastal in West Palm Beach. She remembers Sept. 20, 2017.

“I was sad, I didn’t have anything on my security tape to show more evidence,” she said.

It’s the day an unidentified woman reported a man grabbed her through her shorts as she jogged with her dogs around 5 a.m.

“No one should have a right to touch anybody inappropriately, especially when they are out minding their business at 4 in the morning, training,” said Detective Christian Tomas from the West Palm Beach Police Department Special Victims Unit.

Since the woman’s husband was nearby when the attack happened, both were able to track down the suspect and hold him until police arrived.

Tomas said they questioned 25-year-old Leronce Cheeks the day of the attack.

“We didn’t make a quick arrest, but I think we took the time we needed to make a strong one,” he said.

Tomas said they tracked down witnesses, obtained surveillance video and waited on DNA results.

“It was a very big part of it," he said. "Like I said before, you can’t argue DNA."

Another crucial piece of evidence; a GPS activity tracker watch the victim wore during the attack.

“There were a lot of things that showed something happened and it wasn’t the normal run she had begun,” Tomas said.

For people like Merkle who often find themselves taking a similar route as the victim, this arrest is reminder that you can never be too vigilant.

“Nowhere do you have a guarantee for absolute safety and you just have to be aware,” Merkle said.

This is a perfect time to remind you never to run alone, never run in the dark and never run with headphones.

you are less likely to hear someone coming towards you.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off