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    Detectives look into rape reported at resort

    A Georgia woman vacationing with her family says a man she met at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa attacked her Friday night.

    By CHRIS TISCH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published October 22, 2002


    SAFETY HARBOR -- Detectives are investigating a sexual battery reported Friday night at the Safety Harbor Resort & Spa.

    A 31-year-old woman told investigators that a man sexually battered her in her room.

    The woman, who was vacationing from Georgia with her husband and three children, had met the man the day before by the pool, said Detective Cal Dennie, a spokesman for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.

    The woman said the man had offered her coupons for a massage.

    The next day, she and her husband were at dinner when she returned to her room to get cigarettes, Dennie said.

    The man then sexually battered her sometime between 8:50 p.m. and 9:20 p.m., Dennie said. The woman's husband grew suspicious that his wife was taking so long and went to the room, where he found his wife, but not the attacker, Dennie said.

    Dennie declined to say where the children were at the time of the attack, saying that the investigation was ongoing. He wasn't certain how the man had gotten into the woman's room.

    He said investigators had determined that the attacker was neither an employee nor a guest at the resort. How he got into the resort is unknown, Dennie said.

    Sheriff's officials completed a composite sketch based on descriptions by the woman and one of her children, Dennie said.

    The man is described as being white, about 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds. He has straight, dark hair and a patchy beard. He also has a black mole under his right eye and a scar on his chin, Dennie said.

    The spa's general manager, Philip Deblinger, did not return phone messages left at his office.

    The resort and spa was built in 1926 at a freshwater spring along the shore of Old Tampa Bay. It has a long history of pampering celebrities and is considered one of the top spas in the country.

    Gov. Jeb Bush stayed at the resort on Saturday.

    Anyone with information about the sexual battery can call Pinellas Sheriff's Detective Rob Snipes at (727) 582-6200.

    -- Chris Tisch can be reached at (727) 445-4156 or tisch@sptimes.com.

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