A convicted sex offender denied a new allegation that he sexually assaulted a woman while armed with a gun.
The Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations said Jeffrey North, 34, of Burlington, pointed a gun at a woman he didn't know on a sidewalk in the city’s Old North End in mid-August.
He then forced her into sexual contact, the sex crimes investigation unit said, allegedly telling her “just enjoy it, baby” before she shouted “fire” in an attempt to scare off the attacker.
Late Monday, North entered a plea of not guilty to the aggravated sexual assault charge and was ordered held without bail.
In a separate incident in September, police said North followed a different woman, who was also a stranger, and tried to force her into his car. He allegedly grabbed that woman’s upper thigh and pressed a knife or something else sharp against her neck, police said.
North has not yet been charged with that alleged assault, police said.
"We're definitely very glad to get him at this point, before there was another victim," said Det. Sgt. Chris Nadeau of the Chittenden Unit for Special Investigations. "Whether there would have been, I can't guess. I don't want to make a guess at that situation."
Nadeau said DNA evidence taken from the woman in the August incident matched North, after her physical description of him closely resembled the one given by the woman in the September case.
CUSI noted that North is a registered sex offender, adding that he was convicted for prohibited acts and lewd and lascivious conduct stemming from arrests in 1998 and 2002.
Cathleen Barkley, who supports survivors of sexual violence and aims to end sexual violence through the non-profit HOPE Works, said the circumstances police described are unusual.
"For the people that we serve, it's usually a very small percentage that are sexually assaulted by a stranger," Barkley told necn. "Most of the people that we serve are sexually assaulted by somebody that they already know. So that is unusual in this case, for Vermont."
Barkley said that HOPE Works, where HOPE stands for healing, outreach, prevention, and empowerment, served nearly 1,000 survivors of sexual violence in Chittenden County last year.
North is scheduled to be back in court next week, when he'll be charged with the September assault, Nadeau said.
Police are still investigating the alleged use of the gun in the reported August assault. Investigators said North told them he merely carried a BB gun in case he needed to "scare people," but claimed he did not display it the night in question.