GATLINBURG (WATE) - Rangers have stepped up the search for a man they say raped and stabbed a woman on a trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A sketch of the suspect was released Monday afternoon.
Authorities say the man stabbed the 44-year old woman several times during the attack on the afternoon of June 8. She had been walking alone on the popular Gatlinburg Trail.
The woman had stab wounds to her neck, hands and face. She was flown to UT Medical Center and released on Sunday.
All day Tuesday park rangers were out in full force by the trails. They've put up wanted posters in the park and they're approaching visitors with it as well.
Rangers showed tourists the sketch, asking if they may have seen the man. "You never know who's going to have information on the case. We're not just focusing on the park, but on local communities," said Melissa Cobern, with the National Park Service.
In a busy downtown Gatlinburg, community groups helped put up posters on the windows of businesses like Howard's Steakhouse.
Locals are upset about the incident. "It happened in our backyard. We don't want stuff like this happening in our town. It's just messed up," said Kenneth Robinson, a steakhouse employee.
The National Park Service has already received a lot of tips about the suspect's identity.
As they follow up on the leads, rangers are asking visitors to be aware of their surroundings. "Make sure you don't go out alone. Take a buddy with you," Cobern said.
It's going to change the way tourists like Amy Panfalone do things. She says she's run the Gatlinburg Trail by herself many times in the past.
"After we just heard about what happened on this trail, we'll definitely be using the buddy system," Panfalone said.
Although there's added vigilance in the area where the attack happened, investigators think the suspect may have already left the region.
"We don't have reason to believe he remained in this area. We also think this is an isolated incident," Cobern said.
The suspect is described as white, around 5'7", appearing to be in his 40s, with a thin build, a dirty blonde crew cut and a thin mustache.
He wore glasses, black dress pants and a gray T-shirt. He also has unknown tattoos on each shoulder and an unknown word tattooed across his abdomen.
Anyone with information on the suspect's whereabouts should call this 24-hour number for the National Park Service: 865-436-1580.