WILSONVILLE – Police are continuing their search for a man who they said attacked a young mother at a busy I-5 rest area Friday.
It happened with the sun still shinning Friday afternoon at the Balldock rest area on south I-5 near Wilsonville.
KGW turned up records that show there have been at least two murders in the rest area, the last in 2007.
The state has made a lot of safety improvements in the last few years, but Friday’s assault is a reminder you should never let your guard down at any rest area.
Carrie Vulleri frequently stops at the Balldock rest area. She was sitting alone in the woods very close to where state police say a 33-year-old woman was attacked. T
he victim pulled into the rest area at about 5 p.m. with her young daughter. At first, state police thought the attacker tried to kidnap the little girl, but now detectives are calling it an assault.
The mother was struck several times and possible choked. She’s being treated in a local hospital. Her daughter was not injured. The suspect escaped.
“They wanted assistance in shutting down the rest area due to an assault,” said Jason Nash with Oregon Travel Experience.
Nash is state subcontractor that's been working to make Oregon rest areas safer since taking over from the state Department of Transportation in 2009.
They've cut back trees to improve visibility and have relocated dozens of homeless panhandlers living in the rest area. Some are still there but no longer 24 hours a day.
“They don’t live here. They are allowed to be here for 12 hours in any one given day. They will be gone and come back on occasion,” Nash said. “We don’t want this kind of incident to be the new norm in any of the rest areas in the state of Oregon.”
Crime statistics have dropped since Oregon Travel Experience took over but Friday’s assault was a setback.
Since the attacker is still on the loose, state police are not releasing much information about the victim for her protection.
Police said they have few leads and the suspect description is not very detailed. He was described as a white man with brown hair, about 5-foot-ten.
KGW reporter Wayne Havrelly contributed to this report.