A Lewisburg woman -- awakened early Wednesday morning by a man who entered through her window and put a knife to her neck -- bit his finger so hard that he fled.
"She saved herself because she fought," Lewisburg Police Detective Sgt. Jimmy Oliver said of the woman and her struggle that prevented rape and provided evidence to identify the suspect.
Attempted aggravated rape and especially aggravated burglary charges were filed against Ociel Morales, 19, Oliver said of the suspect held in the Marshall County Jail in lieu of $90,000 bond.
Morales' first appearance in Marshall County General Sessions Court was Tuesday. Such hearings officially tell defendants of their charges and, possibly, deal with legal representation. A June 2 court date has also been set. A preliminary hearing could be held then to see if there's probable cause to send the case to the Grand Jury.
Police Chief Chuck Forbis described the crimes as a home invasion and attempted rape. Oliver said Morales had seen the victim, thought she was pretty and began to stalk her. He entered the victim's apartment wearing black clothes and a white mask, according to the report written by Officer Russell Grubbs, the first policeman on the scene.
In the victim's home, he allegedly told her he wanted her. The victim struggled with him and he "put her in a headlock," wrote Grubbs. She bit his right index finger and elbowed him multiple times. After Morales ran from the residence, the victim called 911. It was 2:37 a.m. May 13, Oliver said. Grubbs' report states the victim "had one laceration on her throat about two inches long, and one laceration to her right index finger."
Detectives James "Pugs" Johnson and Santiago Mcklean "worked the crime scene," Forbis said. A roll of duck tape and a knife were found in the bedroom area, and there was blood on the hand rail going down the steps leaving the residence, according to Grubbs' report. Also assisting in the case was Detective Scott Braden who said Oliver "did most of the work."
Oliver said police "talked with a maintenance man" who worked in the vicinity, providing a description of the woman's assailant. "He knew a man fitting the description," Oliver said.
"I hunted him down and looked at his hands," the detective sergeant said. "We went to his work and got him to come here at the police department where he confessed."
Morales "pretty much" said that he did it, Oliver said. "We had enough evidence and he finally broke down and gave the details.
"I interviewed him and Santiago (who's from Panama and is fluent in Spanish) translated," Oliver said.
The sergeant is checking to be sure that Morales is an illegal immigrant. That's to verify information from Morales.
"He said he came to the U.S. from Mexico in October 2008. He was in Pulaski for two weeks and then in Nashville," Oliver said. "He's been here since about the first of November."
According to various law enforcement officials who, in similar cases, have explained that if an illegal immigrant pleads guilty or is successfully prosecuted, they would serve time in a Tennessee prison and then be transferred to federal custody, possibly in Shreveport, La., from which they'd be deported to Mexico.
It's not a quick return to Mexico, though. In Tennessee, convicts serve 100 percent of their sentence for sex crimes.
The investigation last Wednesday was conducted "in the midst of the other rape case that was at trial," Oliver said. Mcklean was in court with Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard Wednesday through Friday during the trial of Daniel Bates because Mcklean was the lead investigator in that case.
Oliver said, "We were glad we could come to a quick resolution." Morales was arrested at about 9:20 p.m., or nearly 19 hours after the 911 call.
Staff Writer Karen Hall contributed to this report.