MODESTO (CBS13) – A chase of one suspect turned out to be the wrong guy Wednesday, but Modesto police later arrested the man they say sexually assaulted a woman in front of her children at a park last week.

Investigators were able to identify 27-year-old John Lelan Carter as a person of interest in the assault and officers from the Manteca Police Department contacted Carter on Wednesday night.

Modesto police detectives were able to develop enough information to arrest Carter for the assault. Carter was arrested and booked into the Stanislaus County Jail for rape, felony assault and child abuse.

The state Department of Justice confirmed a DNA match for Carter from evidence collected by Modesto crime scene investigators after the attack Oct. 18 at Mancini Park at 1204 River Road.

“We are very appreciative of the tireless work by all those involved in this case, including the staff from DOJ, officers from Manteca Police and investigators from our department,” said Acting Captain Scott Heller, who is the Investigations Division Commander, in a statement announcing the arrest.

When officers arrived at the park, they learned a mother had been violently sexually assaulted by a stranger while visiting the park with her two young children, ages 1 and 8.

As the family was visiting the park, a male suspect, unknown to the victim, approached her and, without warning, violently physically assaulted the victim by punching her and pulling her to the ground.

The mother was holding her 1-year-old child in her arms at the time of the assault and the suspect’s attack caused the child to fall to the ground. Once she was pulled to the ground, the suspect sexually assaulted the victim.

An elderly female witness who was nearby saw the assault and quickly grabbed the two children and ran to find help. After the assault, the suspect fled on foot towards an adjacent residential neighborhood, west of the park.

Earlier Wednesday, police chased after and detained man who matched the park suspect description, but it turned out he was wanted on unrelated drug warrants.


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