Baltimore detectives used an unusual method to make an arrest in a harrowing kidnapping and sexual assault that took place in Leakin Park: tracing the rubber bands from dental braces.

Police released a sketch of a man wanted for assaulting a 71-year-old woman who was out taking a walk in the park on Nov. 7. The victim reported she was taking her daily walk on the trail at 5:30 p.m. when she passed a man sitting on a bench who tried to strike up a conversation by remarking on the weather, according to charging documents.

She noticed the man was following her and continuing to speak with her. His tone changed, she said, after he said his mother had passed away recently and that he was bipolar and wanted to kill himself, police wrote in charging documents. He suddenly grabbed her from behind, pulled what appeared to be a handgun and threatened to kill her.

The victim tried to bite him in an effort to get away, and he began striking her and squeezed her neck until she lost consciousness, police said. During the struggle, her prescription glasses and hat fell off.

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The attacker then dragged her off the trail and to an encampment in the woods where he had a tent and folding chair set up, police wrote in charging documents. He tied her to the chair.

While she was tied down, the suspect kissed her and touched her in a sexual manner, and later applied pressure to her throat causing her to lose consciousness again, police said.

The victim asked the suspect to pray with her, hoping it would calm him down, then asked if he could find her glasses that had fallen off during the initial struggle.

He agreed, and after he was out of sight she was able to untie herself and fled through a creek and up an embankment, where she flagged down a driver.

Police obtained a search warrant for the encampment. There was a bloodstained rope, an air mattress, generator, makeshift shower, portable stove and chainsaw, according to charging documents.

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They also found packets of elastics used for braces, which listed the manufacturer.

Sgt. Keith Savadel contacted the company and provided serial numbers for the rubber bands, and the company provided a list of dental offices they supply across the country, police said.

There was only one office located in Maryland — in Ellicott City.

Savadel went to the dentist office and showed them a sketch of the suspect.

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“Immediately staff recognized the suspect believed to be Charles Taylor,” Det. Latarsha Young wrote in charging documents.

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Charles Avon Taylor Jr., 46, is a twice-convicted sex offender, including receiving a 30-year sentence for first-degree rape in 2000. Half of the sentence was suspended. He was also convicted of third-degree sex offense and first-degree assault in Baltimore County in 2001, receiving another 15-year sentence.

Police learned that Taylor’s mother died in 2017. The day after the kidnapping, Taylor had also checked into Sheppard Pratt hospital to be treated for depression and suicidal thoughts.

A warrant was formally served on Taylor on Nov. 22, and he is being held without bond on charges including kidnapping, first-degree assault, reckless endangerment and fourth-degree sex offense.

Taylor didn’t have an attorney listed in online court records.

Friends of Gwynns Falls/Leakin Park is holding a public safety meeting with officials from the city’s recreation and parks and police departments at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 28, at the Cahill Recreation Center.

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The goal is to discuss state funding to improve safety at the park, calling the Nov. 7 attack “a crime that would have been less likely if the park were adequately funded.”

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries.

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