Because a serial flasher is becoming more and more brazen, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is warning women who use The Legacy Trail and are in Palmer Ranch to be vigilant.
“Once he left the trail and started approaching women at their homes, we issued the citizen alert,” said Wendy Rose, sheriff’s office spokeswoman.
The man has exposed himself at least nine times during the past two months. The most recent incidents have occurred in the past two weeks in and around the Plaza de Flores and Bella Villino condo complexes on Central Sarasota Parkway.
The first incident occurred June 26. The suspect was naked and walking through the woods along The Legacy Trail near McIntosh Road.
Beginning with the third offense, the man began fondling himself in front of the women he was flashing on the trail. He placed an item of clothing over his head to disguise himself.
By the sixth incident, the man left the trail and began approaching women walking near their condos or when they were sitting on their lanais.
In the ninth and most recent reported case Aug. 19, the man began conversing with the victim. According to the sheriff’s office report, a woman was on her lanai at 9:30 p.m. and saw a man crouching in the bushes with a light. She asked him if she could help him, and he said, “No.” He then stood up, and she saw that he was naked and was fondling himself, while shining a flashlight on his midsection.
The woman told him that she was going to call the police, and he replied, “That’s OK. I don’t live here. I live in Lakeland.” He did not budge.
The victim was alone, but she called into the apartment, pretending a man was inside the condo. Only then did the flasher run away.
The suspect is described as a white man, between 25 and 35 years old, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and having an average-to-athletic build.
The sheriff’s office has been conducting undercover surveillance with plain-clothes female officers who appear to be trail users. Deputies have also increased patrols in the area, but they’ve yet to find the suspect.
Anyone with information is asked to call the sheriff’s office at 861-4900 or leave an anonymous tip with Crimestoppers at 366-TIPS.
To view a chart showing where the flashing incidents took place, please click in the link below.