FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Police have made an arrest in a sexual assault case involving a young teenager in Fort Lauderdale.
John Gardner, 33, is answering to a judge Wednesday, after he reportedly assaulted a 14-year-old female with a knife, at around 7 a.m., Tuesday.
“You’re here before the court on count one sexual assault with a weapon,” said a judge in court.
The girl and her friend were walking home when Gardner followed them into the backyard of the group home near Northeast Third Street.
They both asked him to leave, and when he turned away, the friend looked for a way to get into the residence safely.
“The two girls had jumped over the fence, into the backyard area, to try to get back into the residence,” said Fort Lauderdale Police detective Ali Adamson. “At that point, he followed them over the fence.”
When Gardner noticed the 14-year-old was left alone, he threatened her before assaulting her.
“Taking advantage of having the victim alone, the suspect brandished a knife and threatened the victim with the knife before sexually assaulting her,” said Adamson.
Shortly after the attack, a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy spotted Gardner. After a brief chase, he was arrested.
“I would never think he wouldn’t do anything like that. That’s not my fiancé,” said Laerica Hillar, the suspect’s fiancé.
Hillar talked with Gardner from jail, Wednesday morning.
“When he called me, we talked and everything, and I had a conversation with him, and he was just trying to own up on everything that happened, and it don’t seem like him,” said Hillar. “It concerns me, but I just don’t know right now. We’re just trying to wrap our head around everything.”
Neighbors who live nearby are also concerned after the brazen attack.
“It is very alarming,” said a neighbor. “I see kids walking up and down that area all the time.”
The victim suffered cuts and bruises from the struggle, but far greater are the emotional wounds left behind from this vicious attack.
“The impact of something like this is very long lasting for this victim, so we’re grateful we were able to get this suspect in custody,” said Adamson.
Gardner faces several charges including armed sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation.
He appeared in bond court where he was denied bond Wednesday morning.
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