A 13-year-old student was sexually assaulted at knife point after being taken from Woodbury Middle School early Wednesday morning, according to Las Vegas police.
“This is probably one of the most serious, violent crimes that you can deal with,” said police Lt. Dan McGrath.
The girl was locking up her bike on the north side of Woodbury, on Harmon Avenue near U.S. Highway 95, where she was waiting for a bus to take her to Knudson Middle School, a creative arts, language and technology magnet program school about four miles away.
About 5:45 a.m., the suspect, identified by police as 48-year-old Richard Martin Schlacta of California, approached the teen and forcibly dragged her into a nearby building south of the school where he assaulted her multiple times, police said.
“She struggled and pushed,” McGrath said, “but he’s a much, much bigger individual.”
The girl’s resistance finally paid off, and she escaped her assailant. She ran to Harmon Avenue, where she flagged down a passing motorist who called police at 5:53 a.m.
Within minutes of the call, police had Schlacta in custody.
“He jumped over a couple of walls, but they chased him and they caught him,” McGrath said.
“This young lady is probably one the heroes of our community, because she fought bravely and freed herself from the situation she was in,” said Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky.
In response to the sexual assault, officers were sent to patrol the area around Woodbury Wednesday, district spokeswoman Melinda Malone said.
The girl was transported to University Medical Center where she was treated.
“She is doing as best as you could expect,” McGrath said of the 13-year-old.
Police believe that Schlacta has not been in Las Vegas for very long. He has no criminal record here, but police noted a substantial record in California. No details were provided.
“I would consider him a career criminal,” McGrath said.
McGrath said that 95 percent of sexual assault cases involve someone the victim knows, so it is rare for a suspect to be a stranger. He added that assaults on school campuses are even more rare.
Although there has been a rash of violence on school campuses as students return for the new year, district officials reassured parents that schools are safe places.
“We’ve had a couple of situations this week that have not been positive situations. Situations at our campuses where we’ve had unique things that happened, that don’t normally happen at our schools,” Skorkowsky said. “We want to ensure parents that schools are a safe place. But we have to take precautions. We can’t just rely on our neighborhoods always being safe places.”
Clark County School District police Capt. Ken Young said the department will review how local campuses are patrolled in areas where students wait for magnet program buses in the early morning hours.
Schlacta was booked on numerous charges of sexual assault, kidnapping, and battery with a deadly weapon.
The police investigation is ongoing.
Anyone with any information is urged to contact the Metropolitan Police Department Sexual Assault Section at 702-828-3421, or to remain anonymous, contact CrimeStoppers at 385-5555 or at www.crimestoppersofnv.com
Review-Journal writer Trevon Milliard contributed to this report.
Contact reporter Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Follow him on Twitter @ColtonLochhead