A 16-year-old boy was arrested Wednesday afternoon following a brutal stabbing and rape.
The attack, which investigators believe to be totally random, happened in the 1800 block of N. Wilber St. in South Bend’s historic Marquette Park neighborhood, tucked on the city’s northwest side.
Around 7 a.m. Wednesday, police say the juvenile, an African American with dreadlocks, knocked on the front door of a ranch-style house. A single woman in her 50s answered and the assailant forced his way inside.
The teen then beat the woman with his bare hands, stabbed her repeatedly with a sharp object and raped her before taking-off. Left alone and badly injured, she mustered the strength to crawl to a phone and dial 911 at 7:19 a.m.
"We get there and find the sole resident of the house down inside, obviously brutally attacked by some individual. Had a few other things gone wrong, we'd be dealing with a homicide at this point,” South Bend Police Department Capt. Phil Trent said.
South Bend paramedics are credited with rushing the woman to a local hospital where emergency room staffers stabilized her with the advent of surgery.
Back at the crime scene, South Bend detectives, St. Joseph County Metro Homicide technicians and members of the Special Victim's Unit joined forces in processing the blood-filled and ransacked home, in a neighborhood that's well-kept and quite safe.
"It is very upsetting, it hit so close to home. We've lived in this neighborhood for 25 years and it's the first thing that ever happened like this,” Mike Petkovich, who lives three houses down from the crime scene said.
South Bend Police records dating back five years show no previous calls to the home. Neighbors described the woman, whose name NewsCenter 16 is not releasing, as kind, but quiet, someone who liked to lay low.
"One of the old police adages is, ‘If you don't have a suspect to investigate, investigate your victim.’ At this point there's no reason to believe the victim in this case had a relationship or invited this sort of attack on her by any means,” Capt. Trent added.
Police arrested the 16-year-old on suspicion of Attempted Murder, Robbery and Criminal Deviate Conduct. The St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office is expected to file formal charges Thursday. If charged, a judge will decide whether the accused crimes are severe enough for adult court. If the case is waived, the suspect’s name will be made public.
"Unfortunately over the last days, weeks and months, we’ve seen a lot of reports of inexplicable acts of violence and this is another one of those. You want to believe you're safe in your own home and in this case, the sanctity of that home was violated by the individual who forced their way in,” Capt. Trent concluded.
It’s still unclear how many times she was stabbed, or what type of sharp object was used, but officers describe the crime scene as “terribly grisly.”
It’s presumed a rape test was conducted at the hospital. If it was, it will be crucial in making a scientific link to the suspect arrested.
Police recommend residents never answer the door for strangers. Peep holes, storm doors and screens can be effective safety mechanisms. And remember, if you see suspicious activity in your neighborhood or at your front door, call your local police department to have an officer dispatched.