FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Fort Lauderdale police have arrested a man who they said followed two girls into the backyard of a home before sexually assaulting one of them.
The incident occurred around 7 a.m. Tuesday in the 1000 block of Northeast Third Avenue.
According to authorities, the victim, who is 14, was walking to a group home with a friend who lives there when they were followed by a man, later identified as John Gardner.
Police said Gardner, 33, of Fort Lauderdale, startled the girls when he entered the backyard and was told that he wasn’t allowed to be there and needed to leave.
Gardner agreed to leave, at which time the victim’s friend walked away to try and find a way to safely get back into the home, police said.
Authorities said Gardner took advantage of having the victim alone by pulling out a knife and threatening her, before sexually assaulting the teen.
“Anybody would be in fear for their life with something like that happening,” Detective Ali Adamson said. “This was two girls who were trying to go back to a place they believed was safe, and they were followed by this suspect.”
Police said the victim suffered minor injuries during the struggle before Gardner fled the scene.
He was found a short distance away by a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy, who happened to be nearby.
Police said Gardner tried to flee from authorities, but he was eventually detained and the box cutter used during the attack was also found.
“At the time of arrest, the suspect was still in possession of the knife used during the crime,” a news release from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department stated. “During his interview with the Special Victims Unit, the suspect confessed to engaging in sex acts with the victim.”
Gardner faces charges of armed sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation, resisting without violence, violation of probation and having an outstanding warrant.
He appeared in court Wednesday and was ordered held without bond.
Detectives ask anyone with further information about the incident to call Detective Tiana DeQuarto at 954-828-6559. Anonymous tips can be made by calling Broward Crime Stoppers at 954-493-8477.