SAGUACHE COUNTY— Saguache County Sheriff’s Office is warning those traveling through the county not to pick up hitchhikers, following an attack on a young woman traveling south on Highway 17 last week.
Saguache County Undersheriff James McCloskey reported on the incident Tuesday during a phone interview.
The traveler, from the Durango area, was headed down Highway 17 driving a new car when she stopped to pick up a hitchhiker who said he was headed to Alamosa. As they approached the place where the man said he wished to be let out, the woman stopped and instead of getting out of the car, Julio Prieto, 31 of Monte Vista allegedly attacked her.
At one point, the victim said, she lost consciousness as Prieto tried to strangle her. She also suffered a black eye but was eventually able to fend him off and call 911.
When McCloskey arrived on scene accompanied by the Colorado State Patrol (CSP), he found the victim with her right eye swollen shut, abrasions on her neck and scratches on her face. Prieto was nowhere in sight. McCloskey and CSP troopers searched the area but initially turned up nothing.
After searching for a while, they spotted him near a gravel pit, pulled up behind him with lights flashing and asked him to turn around. McCloskey said he just kept walking. Finally Prieto took his jacket off and McCloskey said he was afraid he might be going for a gun, but the suspect took off running instead.
After following Prieto for a half mile, they tried to apprehend him, but the suspect began swinging at law enforcement officials. After administering pepper spray to subdue him he was still swinging but McCloskey said they managed to cuff him.
CSP troopers transported Prieto to the Saguache County Jail but were told a cut on his eye needed stitches. Saguache Jail personnel then transported him to the hospital, where Prieto attacked the jailer accompanying him. After receiving medical care and returning to the jail, Prieto then reportedly attacked another jail employee.
Current charges against Prieto include assault in the first degree, second-degree assault, resisting arrest and attempting to escape. He remains in the Saguache County Jail.
McCloskey said he is waiting for confirmation from the District Attorney’s Office in Alamosa regarding what charges will actually be filed in district court.