PROVO — A Provo man suspected of sexually assaulting a woman at knifepoint in Rock Canyon was arrested Sunday.
The big break in the case came thanks to some observant officers from the BYU Police Department, Provo Police Lt. Brian Taylor said Monday.
Wayne Ray Leas Jr., 34, was arrested at his home on Sunday for investigation of forcible sexual abuse and aggravated robbery.
One week ago, a 21-year-old woman arrived at the trailhead in Rock Canyon Park to meet some friends to go hiking. The woman decided to use the restroom before proceeding up the trail and catching up with her friends, according to police. When she went into the women's bathroom, an unknown man followed her inside.
The man brandished a large curved knife with about a 10-inch blade and demanded cash, according to a police affidavit filed in 4th District Court. The woman showed the man her wallet and said she did not have any money.
As the woman reached into her backpack to show the man she didn't have any cash in there either, "she unlocked her phone using her fingerprint and then dialed her friend," the report states.
The man then demanded she take off her clothes, Taylor said.
"The victim stated she would repeat what the suspect would say so that her friend could hear the conversation on the open phone line," the affidavit states. "She stated she told him to let her take off her shoes so she could stall him, since she knew her friends were listening to the conversation and she thought they would be coming to look for her."
A male friend listened on his phone as the assault unfolded and ran back down the trail to confront the man and rescue the woman, police said. The man ran off when the woman's friends arrived.
On Friday, Provo police released a sketch of the attacker and asked for the public's help locating him. After that information was released, two BYU police officers recognized him as a person whom they had questioned the night before.
About 11 p.m. Thursday, campus police received a call of a suspicious man "hiding in the bushes near the heat plant," Taylor said.
Officers found the man, and although they did not arrest him at that time, they photographed him and took down his name and address. Taylor said the man had a knife on him at that time, but it was different than the one used in Rock Canyon.
On Sunday, a Provo officer used that information to track down Leas and serve a search warrant at his home, Taylor said. The knife believed to have been used in the Rock Canyon assault was recovered, as well as other undisclosed evidence, he said.
"This is a strong case," Taylor added.
As of Monday, police had not identified any other potential victims but encouraged anyone who may have been confronted by the man to call the department.7 comments on this story
According to court records, Leas has had several shoplifting convictions over the past six years. In 2003, he was charged with two counts of aggravated assault in Iron County's 5th Distinct Court. The case, however, was eventually dismissed. According to court docket entry in 2003, "The court finds from the evidence given that the defendant does have a mental illness and that he does not understand or appreciate the charges, penalties or proceedings. The court finds the defendant incompetent."
Subsequent competency evaluation hearings over the next year found that Leas had not been restored to competency, according to court records.