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11-year-old girl sexually assaulted at Forest Manor Park in Indianapolis, 51-year-old man arrested

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Posted at 4:51 PM, Aug 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-19 15:09:52-04

INDIANAPOLIS — A 51-year-old man has been arrested after police say he sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl Tuesday at Forest Manor Park in Indianapolis.

The girl called police around 6 p.m. after the alleged attack.

According to a probable cause affidavit, the girl told police the suspect was sitting on a bench in the park when she sat on a different bench nearby and began playing on her phone.

The girl told detectives that the unknown man approached her from behind and put a black rag in her mouth, according to court documents. He then "dragged" her into a wooded area "near a black log and a wood fence" where he sexually assaulted her.

The girl told police she began kicking and pushing the man until she fought her way out of the situation, found her phone and called police, according to the affidavit.

When questioned, the girl gave detectives specific details about what happened, what the man was wearing and the color of his phone.

After getting the clothing description provided by the girl and matching it with surveillance video from a neighbor, detectives returned to the park where they saw a man that matched the exact description. That man, later identified as James Howard, was taken into custody and in for questioning.

During an interview with detectives, Howard claimed he had not been at the park that day and did not see any children. He claimed the hat he was wearing, which matched the description of the hat that the girl described, was purchased that day from a man who was wearing the same clothes he had on.

Detectives said the Howard tried to hide the hat he was wearing, which matched the description of the hat the girl had described.

After questioning Howard was arrested. On Friday, the Marion County Prosecutor filed formal charges of child molesting, attempted child molesting, kidnapping and criminal confinement.

“The courage of the survivor cannot be overstated,” said Prosecutor Mears. “Her actions and information provided by the community put us in a position to file this case.”

Neighbors say the park is secluded and the situation is horrifying.

"It is extremely concerning," said Bridget Robinson.

"It's frightening. I live right next door to the park and I see children all of the time unattended. that's real important to me. I try to keep my eyes and ears open. You see people going in and out of the woods it's scary," said Craig Livers.

Neighbors, encourage the community, to stay alert.

"I have a ring doorbell camera. I urge everyone get one. Photograph things around you. Talk to your neighbors talk to your children. If you see something say something. This is terrible news," said Livers.

WRTV Senior Digital Content Producer Andrew Smith contributed to this report.