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Man Arrested in W.Va. Child Assault Case

July 16, 2003

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) _ A man suspected of posing as a security guard to sexually assault an 11-year-old girl at a Target store was captured Wednesday as he left a lawyer’s office in Kentucky, authorities said.

Allen Dwayne Coates, 37, of Irvington, Ky., was arrested without incident and was being held on charges of first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping, police said.

South Charleston Police Chief David Dunlap said an anonymous tip from a person in Kentucky led to the arrest. He credited the capture to a grainy surveillance video from the department store.

``They saw it, they saw the individual on the news,″ Dunlap said of the tipster.

``It’s a burden lifted. I’m sure the community will be elated that this predator is no longer on the streets,″ he added.

Police said the girl was assaulted Saturday at the South Charleston store after she and her mother separated to do individual shopping.

The tape showed a man stalking a young girl and then walking quickly down an aisle in another department, leading a girl by her wrist.

Police said the man, posing as a security guard, told the girl he saw her steal something, pulled a knife and forced her to the store’s garden department, where he assaulted her.

When too many shoppers walked into that section, he led her into the men’s wear section, where he allegedly assaulted her again.

Attorney Fred Radolovich, whose office Coates had visited, said he would be representing the suspect. Radolovich said he planned to enter an innocent plea for Coates at a hearing Thursday and would also ask that his client receive a psychiatric evaluation.

Kentucky police are investigating whether Coates was involved in a similar incident Friday at a Wal-Mart in Ashland, Ky., said Capt. Don Petrella of the Ashland police.

In that incident, a 9-year-old girl who had wandered away from her mother was approached by a man who identified himself as a security guard. The man patted the girl down, and she became suspicious and ran to her mother.

Both stores are near Interstate 64, which also runs through Louisville. Ashland is about 200 miles east of Louisville and about 62 miles west of South Charleston.

``They are being linked together,″ Dunlap said.

Coates also faces a federal charge of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, said Brian D. Lamkin, acting FBI special agent in Kentucky.

South Charleston authorities planned to seek Coates’ extradition to face the West Virginia charges.

Police had released the surveillance tape to the media and had asked NASA to enhance the images in hopes of identifying the suspect.

``If it were not for the broadcast, this case may have never been solved,″ Dunlap said.

Update hourly