A Florida man is suspected of kidnapping a hospital employee as she went to work and sexually assaulting the woman in her car, authorities said.
Joel Cossio, 31, was arrested early Sunday in Charlotte County after a tip to investigators about his whereabouts roughly 24 hours after the woman was attacked as she arrived at work at the Cleveland Clinic in Weston, the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said.
Investigators did not elaborate on what led to Cossio’s arrest, but his relatives told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that he “suffers from mental illness” and left his home earlier Saturday following an argument about his medication.
“They would like to thank the Broward Sheriff’s Office, Detective Rausch and the law enforcement officers who acted on the family’s information to apprehend Joel without incident,” the family’s statement read.
Authorities said the victim — whose identity was not released — was headed to work early Saturday when she was grabbed by an attacker who forced her into her car and proceeded to sexually assault her.
“A man ran after her, tackled her and forced her back into her own vehicle,” Sgt. Don Prichard said Sunday, the newspaper reported. “He then proceeded to drive and sexually batter her at a location we are not going to disclose at this time.”
The woman was later dropped off at a Target near the Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise, where she told responding deputies that her assailant sped off in her white Ford Explorer, heading west on I-75, the Sentinel reported.
Cossio is from Hialeah, according to public records cited by the newspaper. Prichard said late Saturday there’s no evidence that the victim knew her attacker.
Cossio, who remained in custody in Charlotte County on Sunday, is awaiting a judge’s order to return to Broward County, where he’ll face charges for the attack, deputies said Sunday.
A deputy encountered Cossio at a Wawa in Punta Gorda, where he “made overtures” that he was having a mental health crisis and needed help, NBC Miami reported.
Deputies then found the stolen Explorer nearby and took Cossio into custody on a charge of possession of a stolen motor vehicle, the station reported.
The Cleveland Clinic said in a statement to the Sun Sentinel that it was “deeply troubled and saddened” by the attack.