Police investigate sexual assault in quiet Petaluma neighborhood

PETALUMA, Calif. (KTVU) -- A quiet neighborhood in Petaluma was shaken after a female resident was sexually assaulted on Friday morning.

The crime happened during daylight hours, not a time that most people would be on guard for such an attack.

It's the kind of neighborhood where children play in the street when they're not at the park at the end of the road.

"We have some friends that live over here. Always rather quiet, kids are running around," said Carlos Payte, who lives nearby.

On Eckmann Place in Petaluma, someone broke into a woman's house and sexually assaulted her at 8:45 in the morning.

"It's just disgusting to see something like that; take advantage of a young lady like that," exclaimed another nearby resident, Jim Gallagher.

Police spent hours in the area searching for the man. They say he broke into the victim's house in a very short amount of time.

"She'd gone to take her kids to school and drop them off," said Sgt. Edward Crosby. "Came back a few moments later, and found there was an unwanted and unknown intruder in her house. And that subject committed the sexual assault against her."

"I really, really feel for the woman this happened to, and for her family. It's going to be a really rough time," said Nicole Payte, who also lives in the area.

Police said the victim didn't get a good look at her attacker, because he was wearing some kind of ski mask.

"He's a white male adult. We don't have an approximate age. Approximately 6 feet fall, described as having a pot belly," said Sgt. Crosby, adding that he was wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and black shoes.

The incident has neighbors concerned for their own safety.

"My wife's a stay at home mom and we have two young kids. And she goes out for a run all the time, so she said that this morning. 'It could have been me. It could have been me,'" said Gallagher.

Sgt. Crosby said they may have sex offenders in the area.

"I imagine we do. We have about 62 registered sex offenders in Petaluma that are registered for various types of sex offenses," said Crosby. And we are going to go through all those files and see if there are any matching descriptions in those files."

Residents say about five years ago, a woman was attacked in a nearby park. It wasn't a rape, but the victim was pretty seriously hurt. They say that's the only other major crime of note that's happened in the quiet neighborhood.

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