The community is coming together to help the Monroe County Sheriff's Office catch the man responsible for a rape and beating reported last Sunday.
The victim, 39, told deputies she was walking to Dillon's Irish Pub and Grille in the Tavernier Towne shopping center at mile marker 91 when a man came out of the bushes, dragged her into a wooded area behind the plaza and raped and beat her.
She suffered a broken bone in her face, multiple broken ribs and other injuries to her face, head, neck and back, said Deputy Becky Herrin, spokeswoman for the Sheriff's Office. The reported attack happened around 9 p.m., Herrin said.
The victim was taken to Mariners Hospital for treatment. She could not describe the attacker, other than to say he had an "afro" hair style, Herrin said.
There is a possible $1,000 reward from Crime Stoppers for any information leading to the suspect's arrest, but a local business is also doing its part to hopefully encourage someone to giving police information about the alleged rapist.
Carol Myers, who with her husband Bud owns Key Largo Pet Sitter, started a GoFundMe account to raise money for an additional reward. Myers' reason for starting the fund goes beyond good civics. She's also trying to protect her employees, all women, who walk clients' dogs before the sun comes up and after it goes down in the evening.
"It's a reason of concern until this rapist is caught," Myers said.
Myers said it was the victim who said the money should go toward a reward. Myers initially wanted to donate the cash to the woman, but she declined.
If the suspect is not caught, Myers will give the money to nonprofits that help rape victims and abused women.
"It's very unsettling that we have such a person in the Upper Keys who still has not been apprehended," Myers said. "We just want to do what we can to get that person off the street and behind bars where he belongs."
Herrin said at press time that the Sheriff's Office doesn't have many promising leads about the suspect. She added that it's likely he's not from the area and has moved on.
"He could be anywhere at this point," she said.
Given what happened Sunday, women in the area are more vigilant than normal, but Herrin said it's always important to be aware of your surroundings.
"We recommend the obvious things," she said. "Don't walk alone after dark, and pay attention."
Herrin stressed that people should always call the Sheriff's Office "if someone is out of place in their neighborhood, if they just don't fit."
"A lot of people tell us they don't want to bother us by calling us about something that doesn't seem right, but that's how we find many of our suspects," she said.
You can donate money to Myers' fund by going to www.GoFundMe.com and type in "Catch Upper Keys Rapist."
Anyone with information about the case should immediately contact the Sheriff's Office at (305) 481-8060. Callers who wish to remain anonymous can call Crime Stoppers of the Florida Keys. If a Crime Stoppers tip leads to an arrest, the caller would be eligible for a cash reward. The Crime Stoppers hot line number is (800) 346-TIPS (8477). Tips may be made anonymously on line at www.tipsubmit.com.