West Nashville man accused of grabbing female joggers
Feb 12, 2013 10:47 PM
Eric Wheeler, 21, is charged with two counts of assault for grabbing women on January 10 and January 24.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
Metro police arrested a local college student believed to be responsible for grabbing at least two female joggers in the west Nashville area.
Eric Wheeler, 21, is presently charged with two counts of assault for grabbing women on January 10 and January 24.
During questioning, Wheeler implicated himself in both cases.
"Mr. Wheeler admitted his fascination with women in public places and his desire to feel their skin," Metro Police Spokesperson Don Aaron said Tuesday.
In the January 10 case, a 24-year-old woman was grabbed from behind while jogging on Clearview Drive near Woodmont Circle.
She spoke to Nashville's News 2 under the name "Kelly" to protect her identity.
"You feel violated already because what you thought was safe and secure is no longer safe and secure," she said.
On the day of her attack, "Kelly" noticed a suspicious car along her usual run route.
"I kept running and kind of just noted it," she said. "I heard a car door shut, and I heard footsteps come up behind me. I turned around as he kind of lunged for me."
"Kelly" was surprised by the man's young age and well-dressed appearance. She fought to get away. She yelled at her attacker, but he never spoke.
"He kind of just had this sadistic smirk or laugh, and just kind of ran back to his car," she said.
"Kelly" wasn't the only one to file a police report about a smirking assailant. Two weeks later, on January 24, another 24-year-old jogger was grabbed just a couple miles away on Marlborough Avenue.
The victim had stopped to give directions to a man in a vehicle, when the man grabbed her arm. She was able to break free, and told police the man laughed and drove away.
In addition to this year's cases, Wheeler is also a strong suspect in at least two similar crimes that occurred on January 8 and February 7 of 2012.
In those cases, women were jogging on Branch Creek Road at Kendall Drive and on Forestwood Drive at Knob Road when they were grabbed.
"Since the announcement of Mr. Wheeler's arrest, a number of other women have come forward saying that they believe they were also victimized by him," Aaron said.
Investigators believe more victims may be out there and hope they come forward like "Kelly."
"When I first called police, I thought, 'This isn't going to amount to anything. I don't have tags. He was wearing sunglasses. I've got nothing to give for them. I'm physically okay. They're just going to laugh it off,'" she said. "I was very thankful that they did not. They took it very seriously, and handled it very well."
Wheeler is charged with two counts of assault, and has since been released on a $6,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court on March 27.
Anyone who recognizes Wheeler and may have been the victim of a similar assault or attack is urged to contact the department's sex crimes unit at 615-862-7540.