Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 25, 2012

Sketch key in investigation


— TRAVERSE CITY — A composite sketch released by investigators proved useful as they worked to identify the man who tried to drag a woman into the woods along the Boardman Lake Trail.

David Michael Walter, 42, is charged with a felony count of attempted unlawful imprisonment and a misdemeanor assault count. He surrendered to the Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Department on Monday after prosecutors authorized charges.

He was arraigned Tuesday and remains in custody at the county jail.

Detectives believe Walter grabbed a woman, 47, as she walked her dog along the trail on the afternoon of Sept. 16. He tried to drag her into the woods, but she was able to fight him off and call police. The victim worked with a sketch artist to develop a drawing of the suspect.

Investigators believed the suspect might be homeless, and a detective took the drawing around to local homeless shelters and a soup kitchen. Several people “immediately indicated” the drawing looked like Walter, a police report said.

Not long after authorities subsequently released the sketch to the media, the department received several calls from area residents who said the drawing matched Walter’s description.

Detectives located and interviewed Walter the same day the drawing was released, Undersheriff Nate Alger said. He denied involvement and wasn’t arrested, but his photo was taken. Based in part on tips tied to the sketch, a detective included his photo in a photo lineup for the victim’s review.

“As soon as (the victim) looked at the photo lineup, she immediately began to cry and break down ... she immediately pointed to position six in the photo lineup,” a police report said. “She kept saying over and over that she was 100 percent sure, 100 percent positive that the subject she picked in the photo lineup was, in fact, the subject that assaulted her.”

Alger said the woman’s solid recollection of Walter’s physical description was a big help to investigators.

“She did a very good job, being the victim of an assault and then being able to turn around and provide those kinds of details to a sketch artist,” Alger said.

The woman described the harrowing incident to a detective. She was walking her dog when Walter came out of nowhere and wrapped his arms around her, she said.

“She stated that as she was picked up by the subject, he began pulling her to the left ... into the wooded area. She stated that she was able to get one arm free and one leg free and was able to flail and kick which caused the individual to drop her,” a report reads. “Once she fell to the ground ... the subject grabbed her by the leg in an attempt to gain control of her.”

She kicked free, ran off and called police.

Walter turned himself in after he heard authorities put out a warrant for his arrest. He continues to maintain his innocence, Sheriff Tom Bensley said.

Authorities are glad to make an arrest.

“I think it’s absolutely great,” Alger said. “This type of act is brazen, and for us it’s concerning behavior. We never know how far someone is going to go with these types of acts.”

Walter has an “extensive criminal history” that includes drunken driving and assault charges, police said.