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Man held in attacks on two women

By BRADY DENNIS, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 17, 2003

TAMPA -- Police on Wednesday arrested a 49-year-old man they say robbed and sexually assaulted one elderly woman, then robbed another elderly woman at knifepoint.

Police say Leon Wilder, of 8427 N Highland Ave., knocked on the front door Wednesday of a 78-year-old woman who lived near him. The two knew each other because Wilder had done repair work for her in the past.

Police said Wilder told her he was there to return money she had lent him, but instead brandished a hammer and demanded money.

He took money from her purse and, when the woman tried to leave, he hit her twice on the head with the hammer and sexually assaulted her, investigators said. Wilder fled the area on foot. The woman was treated for minor injuries at St. Joseph's Hospital.

About 5:30 p.m., a man fitting Wilder's description approached a 77-year-old woman in her carport on the 6500 block of N Wellington Street and asked for a drink of water, police said.

They said when she brought back the water, the man grabbed her by the throat and pulled out a knife. He forced her inside, where he pushed her to the floor and demanded money, police said.

A struggle ensued and the woman tried to scratch the man in self-defense, according to reports. At that time, one of the woman's family members arrived home, and the man fled on foot. The woman was treated for minor injuries.

Officers said they saw Wilder nearby, in the area of Sligh and Central avenues, and arrested him.

He faces charges of armed sexual battery, aggravated battery on an elderly person, home invasion robbery and lewd and lascivious offense committed in the presence of an elderly person.

Records show he was arrested in January on charges of grand theft, petty theft, uttering a forged instrument and organized fraud.

Wilder was taken to the Hillsborough County jail Wednesday, where he remained without bail.

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