GREAT NECK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A search was under way on Long Island Friday for a man accused of sexually assaulting a teenage girl in her backyard.
As CBS2’s Jessica Borg reported, the terrifying incident happened last week shortly after the teen arrived home from school. She was doing her homework in the backyard around 2:40 p.m. Thursday, May 18, while police said a handyman working next door violated her.
Claudia Orellana has the handyman before. She said she is stunned by the allegations.
“To my knowledge, he’s never done it. He worked in the house — our house, and nothing,” Orellana said. “He’s very polite and everything.”
The community is known for being safe, neighbors said.
“I walk around the streets a lot,” said Deborah Yadidi of Great Neck. “I never encountered this problem.”
A family member of the teenage girl told CBS2’s Borg the girl was traumatized by what happened.
Police said the handyman apparently had been hired for the day and was working alone to mow the neighbor’s lawn. That was when he spotted the young girl and walked up, police said.
The man allegedly struck up a conversation, telling the girl his name was “Jose.” He then started to hug, kiss and fondle her, police said.
The girl screamed and the man ran off, police said. Orellana said she saw the suspect that day — and believes he might have been drunk.
“The way he acted, the way he walked and the way he shook my hand — he was drunk,” Orellana said.
Landscapers are a common sight in the area. The manager of a local landscaping business warns against hiring workers without references.
“Definitely — they have to have ID’s now. They have to have Social Security, and they have to have I-9 formsl and it’s got to be legitimate,” he said. “You can’t fool around anymore in this kind of business.”
Police describe the suspect as in his 40’s, about 5 feet 6 inches tall and 160 pounds.
The victim’s mother snapped a picture of the man while she was on the way to the police station to report the crime.
The property owner who hired the suspect was not available for comment late Friday.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Nassau County Crime Stoppers at (800) 244-TIPS. All callers will remain anonymous.