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For third night, a girl is attacked

Three sleeping girls, ages 13, 13 and 10, have been beaten by an intruder this week. One has a fractured skull.

By RYAN DAVIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 11, 2002

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HUDSON -- The 13-year-old was sleeping early Thursday morning on the living room couch.

"I woke up to being strangled," she said. "He had his hand over my mouth."

The intruder wrestled her off the couch, slammed her head on the floor and punched her face four times, she said.

She screamed, fought him off and ran to her grandmother's room. They locked themselves in the bathroom and called 911.

The beating left the girl with a swelled-shut left eye and a sore face.

The previous night's victim wasn't as lucky.

The intruder broke her skull.

Thursday's attack was the third on a sleeping girl in as many nights. The victims live within a mile of one another. Each time a man broke into a house, covered the girl's mouth, beat her and fled. He never touched them sexually or stole anything.

"I wonder if there's another girl that's on the list for tonight," said Virginia Ellwood, the girl's grandmother.

Pasco sheriff's detectives were investigating the attacks Thursday.

"Breaking into somebody's house is bad enough," sheriff's spokesman Jon Powers said. "But if you know there are people in there, that's brazen."

Two of the girls are 13 and have been friends for six years. They are seventh-graders at Hudson Middle School and live in Beacon Woods East.

They have known the other victim, a 10-year-old, for a year. She lives in Lakeside Woodlands.

Authorities say the intruder is thin and possibly a teenager, and that's about all they know, Powers said. They would not officially link the crimes, but they talk as if one attacker committed them.

"It appears to be target-specific," Powers said. "We don't think it's a case of somebody running around looking for houses to break into.

"There's obviously reason for concern. We're concerned."

The neighborhoods where the victims live are established communities with well-manicured yards, lingering Christmas decorations and alarmed residents.

"I haven't heard anything about it," said Dave Seabrooke, who lives within eyesight of one victim's house. "If I had a daughter living at home now I'd be a lot more upset about not having heard of it sooner."

The attacker first hit late Monday night on Warrior Way in Beacon Woods East.

A 13-year-old girl was sleeping on her bedroom floor with her 6-year-old sister, her 11-year-old brother and a 13-year-old male visitor.

The attacker came through an unlocked bedroom window, covered the 13-year-old girl's mouth, punched her in the face and jumped out the window when she managed to yell for her brother.

She told deputies that she tasted the attacker's dirty fingers in her mouth.

The sleeping visitor thought the victim was playing around or being tickled. By the time he awoke, the beating was finished, deputies said.

Early Wednesday morning in Lakeside Woodlands an attacker struck again, deputies said.

He forced open a window and beat a 10-year-old girl in her bed.

The girl's mother saw her at 2:30 a.m. on the family room couch. The girl said she had thrown up in her room and it was a mess.

It was far worse than that.

The girl suffered a broken skull and a 1-inch cut on the crown of her head. According to deputy reports, she told detectives she doesn't remember what happened.

The other two victims were home, but she was recovering Thursday night at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.

In the most recent attack, the intruder walked through an open door about 1:50 a.m. Thursday.

The most recent victim and her grandmother said they won't forget again to lock the back door.

Like the neighbors, grandmother Virginia Ellwood first had trouble accepting what happened to her granddaughter: "I thought she was having a nightmare."

Thursday afternoon, her granddaughter chatted on the phone with friends, winced in pain as she laughed and rubbed at her swollen eye. "I don't think I am going to bed tonight," she told a reporter.

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