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‘The worst day of my life’: Woman survives sexual assault, attack on Colorado trail

Vanessa Ursini says she was attacked while walking her dog on a Denver, Colorado trail. Police say a suspect has been arrested in connection with the assault.
Vanessa Ursini says she was attacked while walking her dog on a Denver, Colorado trail. Police say a suspect has been arrested in connection with the assault. Screenshot from Facebook

Vanessa Ursini got “a very strange vibe” from the man when he passed her and her dog, Berreta, Wednesday morning on Denver’s Platte River Trail, the woman said on Facebook.

When Ursini crossed paths with him again, she noticed he was close behind her, she wrote. Before she knew it he had a rope in his hands that he used to strangle her, Ursini said. He dragged the woman roughly 15 feet off the trail into a wooded area and stripped her of most of her clothes, Ursini said on Facebook.

Ursini says she “fought like hell” and kept screaming as loud as she could. “I thought that his could be the end but I was not about to give up fighting for my life,” she wrote.

The suspect had “hog tied” Ursini from her neck to her wrists, she said. Ursini was able to get free and run for help — but she had to leave Berreta behind, the post said. She got the attention of some people in the area, who Ursini says protected her. A bicyclist chased the man and held him until police arrived, Ursini wrote.

Littleton, Colorado police identified the suspect as Johnny Dewayne Harris, 48, who has been arrested on charges of sexual assault and kidnapping, the Denver Post and KUSA reported. Harris allegedly told police he used a rope to drag Ursini into the woods, then sexually assaulted her while she fought him off, the news station reported.

Cmdr. Trent Cooper praised the people who helped Ursini, the Post reported.

“They did exactly what good Samaritans should do,” Cooper said. “They got involved, but not so involved that they endangered themselves...

“We’re looking at whether other cases are related to him,” Cooper added, according to the Denver Post.

Ursini later located Berreta. She says the dog is “safe at home.”

Ursini survived what she calls the “worst day” of her life, she wrote on Facebook. She said she chose to share the terrifying ordeal to warn people to be alert and aware of their surroundings, and have a plan in place to protect themselves.

Harris served prison time for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in Texas more than two decades ago, KUSA reported.

The suspect was arrested in Georgia on an unrelated charge. Fort Worth detectives interviewed him and found that he knew details of their case that only the assailant would be aware of.

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