Neighbors fearful after man allegedly raped 80-year-old Florida woman with cancer

The Ocala Police Department is investigating a sexual battery of an elderly woman. Police said a man made his way into her apartment, where she lives alone, held a screwdriver up to her, and raped her. 

People at Saddleworth Greene were astonished to hear what happened to their neighbor. One man told FOX 35 he’d helped police in a search party Wednesday night after hearing a woman had been hurt but said he never imagined something like this.

Despite police patrolling the neighborhood Wednesday night and through the night Thursday, the news has shaken the community. Some people called the incident "unbelievable," and others called it "scary."

One woman told us she’s always felt safe in the community.

"That’s what’s crazy," she said about how she normally feels secure at home. "I would’ve never guessed."

Jeff Walczak, the Public Information Officer for the Ocala Police Department, says the victim in this incident is fighting cancer, and now also has to fight off the trauma of the attack.

"Our detectives are working really hard on this case, and we understand that justice needs to be served swiftly so this person doesn’t do anything like this again," said Walczak.

When FOX 35 asked Ocala Police how the man got into the apartment, they told me the department is still investigating and that it won’t be releasing every detail.

But one neighbor did mention this:

"They changed our locks from deadbolt locks to smart locks this week, and I don’t know how safe that is either."

She also said the front gate has been broken for about a year. FOX 35 observed it open for several hours as people drove through Thursday evening, though the gate to get out of the apartment did close. Multiple people living in the community expressed concern for their back entryways, saying the screens on their porches had been broken for a while.

The same woman who was nervous about the new smart locks says she saw a man with a similar build to the suspect walking around the complex a couple weeks ago.

"He was just walking along the side, and I’m like, ‘That’s weird, you’re just walking out.’ I remember a similar – it was a strange, he had a similar build."

That neighbor says she’s considering sleeping in a hotel, since she’s afraid to be at the complex with her grandchildren right now. 

"It’s very unnerving. Makes you scared. Makes you not want to turn the lights out."

The Community Manager for Saddleworth Green Apartments emailed residents Thursday letting them know about the attack.

In that email, he says,

The Community Manager for Saddleworth Green Apartments notified residents in that complex about an attack on an 80-year-old woman in her apartment. (Courtesy: Saddleworth Green resident)

The email from Saddleworth Green's Community Manager continues,

"It has become increasingly important for each of us to be aware of and to report trespassers in our community, as well as any suspicious behavior we may observe."

Ocala Police told FOX35 they’re pursuing multiple leads right now. But they’re still asking the public to reach out with any information that could help them catch the attacker.