(GATLINBURG, Tenn.) — Authorities said today they are sorting through leads while stepping up patrols of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park following the sexual assault and stabbing of a hiker at the most visited national park.
“Rangers and special agents are actively investigating leads we have received through our tip line. We’re also going into the community and distributing flyers to local businesses,” Molly Schroer, a spokesperson for the national park, told ABC News.
The unidentified 44-year-old victim was sexually assaulted while hiking alone on the Gatlinburg Trail in eastern Tennessee and suffered wounds to her hand, neck and shoulder, Schroer said.
The victim managed to walk to the Gatlinburg Bypass where she flagged down a passing motorist. She was airlifted to the University of Tennessee Medical Center and was released Sunday night.
Park officials released a sketch of the suspect, who is described as a thin, white male in his 40s. He is believed to be 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10 and has dirty blonde hair with a crew cut and a thin mustache. The victim also noted multiple tattoos on his shoulders and an unknown word on his stomach.
Schroer said authorities believe the attack is an isolated incident and won’t deter visitors during the busy summer travel season.
“We would, however, like to encourage all visitors to hike safely while in any National Park. Some tips we give are to not hike alone, hike during the day time, make sure someone knows what trail you are hiking and when you plan to return, and be aware of your surroundings while in the park,” she said.
The National Parks Service is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the attacker.
More people visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park each year than any other in the United States. The park boasts 850 miles of hiking trails. Seventy miles of the Appalachian trail run along the park’s top ridge.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Recent posts in National News